Share this article on social media!
One of the recent innovations in the care of senior citizens is the 2011 statute creating the silver alert in Florida. The Statewide Silver Alert (Alert) is a plan to work with local law enforcement in rescuing and recovering missing elderly persons who suffer from severe cognitive difficulties. An Alert triggers a response that leverages community resources to supplement the investigation into the missing senior. Alerts are activated by local law enforcement personnel, who are acknowledged as those in the best position to notify local medical staff and spread information through phone trees and other local technology.
If the missing senior is known to have a vehicle, statewide resources are brought into the Alert. Alerts can take advantage of the A Child is Missing and Media Alert programs. Those running the Alert can also ask the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse to open a case.
Expanding the Program
The original Silver Alert system focused on finding seniors in cars. Today, efforts are underway to expand the program to assist with Silver Alerts where the missing senior is on foot. By calling 911, caregivers can engage with local law enforcement for their missing senior.
Creating Local Programs
The State of Florida encourages local communities to develop their own Silver Alert Programs using the Florida Plan standards. Caregivers can work in their local communities to assist with creating such plans and include features such as:
- The missing person must be at least 60 and have clear signs of irreversible dementia verified by law enforcement
- Alternatively, a person 18 to 59 with irreversible dementia who lacks the ability to consent can be the subject of a search.
Either of the above should trigger the use of the Florida dynamic message signs, so long as:
- Local law enforcement has triggered a local or regional alert.
- Local law enforcement has determined there’s a credible threat of danger to the missing person’s welfare and safety.
- The local body must provide a description of the vehicle and its license plate number, verified by local law enforcement.
- Local law enforcement must enter the senior’s information into the Florida Crime Information Center database and issue a statewide BOLO.
Why Does Florida Have So Many Silver Alerts?
Florida has a large and rapidly growing elderly population. Indeed, current estimates are that Florida has nearly half a million citizens with Alzheimer’s. The state is committed to taking care of its seniors and providing the necessary tools to ensure their safety. As a caregiver, you can contact local law enforcement if you have a missing senior and believe you need to activate a silver alert in Florida.
Caregivers and the Silver Alert
Senior care organizations were instrumental in establishing the Silver Alert system, and caregivers can use the system and work to assist in creating their own local Silver Alert programs. A very high percentage of those with irreversible dementia are at risk of wandering away during their illness. As an experienced caregiver, you are intimately familiar with whether your seniors are in that group. Since you know the most about your seniors, you can bring your significant experience and knowledge to developing your own local program.
You can also work to create local groups of trained and knowledgeable caregivers to spread awareness of your local Silver Alert Program. You can also provide training resources and inform the public about your program. Given the rapid growth of dementia in Florida’s elderly population, your experience and knowledge will always be valuable to someone who is just beginning the journey on which you are now an experienced traveler.
Being a Prepared Caregiver
As a concerned caregiver, you can be prepared for the likely event that your senior may walk or drive away (called an elopement). To be ready to take advantage of the Silver Alert program, you should:
- Obtain a formal diagnosis of your loved one’s dementia; keep a written copy on hand.
- Ensure that any reversible dementia is treated properly
- Take these steps as soon as you can.
- Start working on getting treatment referrals and look for possible clinical trials that may be right for your loved one.
- Keep information about filing a Silver Alert easily accessible; if your loved one is at home, ensure everyone knows where to find that information.
- Make a profile of your loved one; include a photo, vital statistics about your loved one, and information about any vehicles to which the senior has access.
As a prepared and concerned caregiver, you can get the most value out of the Silver Alert in Florida. Making an Alert early and with the knowledge that lets you do so efficiently can be a life-saving skill for your senior and one that you can and should share with other caregivers in your local community.
When contacting law enforcement, be prepared to give them the information you keep on hand and details about the current situation. They will want to know if there have been prior wandering incidents and what you have done so far to locate your missing senior. They will also need to know if any issues or events will trigger fear or panic in your senior. Having that information ahead of time can prevent a concerned officer from making an already fraught situation worse for a scared and anxious senior.
North Star Senior Advisors Can Help
North Star Senior Advisors can help you with managing your caregiver responsibilities. We can also offer invaluable assistance at no cost to you when the time comes to seek the right senior living community for your Florida Silver senior. North Star offers assistance with assessments, medication management, and other administrative functions that can be so difficult for caregivers to manage for their loved seniors. They can help your local caregivers group with training and guidance on giving care and understanding what is a Silver Alert in FL.