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‘Silver Alert’ proposed for people with dementia reported lost

Australian academics are calling for a ‘Silver Alert’ system to help locate people with dementia who are reported lost.

Silver Alert systems, which are similar to the Amber variety used for missing children, operate in 18 US states. When a person with dementia or cognitive impairment is reported as being lost, media outlets, law enforcement units and departments of transport help spread the message.

Dr Margie MacAndrew, from the QUT-based Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration: Carers and Consumers, said not all people with dementia who wander become lost but they are much more likely to than their peers who do not have dementia.

A study by MacAndrew and her research team, published in the Australasian Journal on Ageing, examined news articles published between 2011 and 2015 reporting on a missing person who had dementia.

In that time, there were 130 missing person cases, of which only 71 per cent were resolved with the person reported as being found.

Just under two-thirds of those who were found were well, while 19 were injured and 19 people were deceased.

MacAndrew said there is currently no Australian equivalent to the US Silver Alert system, despite the proportion of the population with dementia being similar. “We think it could be very effective.”

Aged Care Insite asked MacAndrew how international Silver Alert systems work and spoke with her about balancing autonomy with safety.

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