MARQUETTE - Amber Alerts, which rally forces to find missing children, have become a well-known part of American society.
Legislation now in process in the Michigan legislature would create a similar system for state residents suffering from dementia or other hardships. It's being referred to as a "Silver Alert" system.
"It has been the last couple of years that we've been working on it," said Ruth Almen, regional director for the Alzheimer's Association. "This recognizes the increasing numbers of seniors who are in danger. More and more people are being diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer's. And statistics show 60 percent of these people wander.
"So it's important we get a system in place that will quickly let people know that someone is missing," she said. "This effort would put up an announcement immediately."
This legislation, The Mozelle Senior Medical Alert Act - referred to also as Silver Alert - has passed in the Michigan Senate, Almen said. The legislation is now in the Michigan House's Family, Children and Seniors Committee.
It is legislation the Alzheimer's Association has endorsed, she said.
"It goes along well with the Safe Return/Medic Alert and Lifetracker programs that are already in place," Almen said. "Those are things we are working in partnership with to help keep track of seniors. Those with the potential to wander have an ID bracelet with an 800-number on it. That number will allow someone who finds the person to know how to get ahold of a caregiver. It's a really good network to do this with.
"Many people with dementia wander out of homes or walk away from a car that they are supposed to be sitting in waiting for someone," Almen said.
This wandering behavior is not necessarily contained to the person's immediate neighborhood either.
"We have had reports of people from other parts of the country who've gotten in a car and left driving as far as another state," she said. "Communication is so crucial. These cases can happen so quickly."
According to information from the Michigan Legislature's website, the bill would create the "Mozelle Senior or Vulnerable Adult Medical Alert Act" to do the following:
- Require a law enforcement agency to prepare a report when it received notice of a "missing senior or vulnerable adult" from a person familiar with the individual.
- Specify information that would have to be included in a report.
- Require a law enforcement agency to forward information regarding a missing senior or vulnerable adult to certain other law enforcement agencies and to one or more area broadcasters.
- Allow a law enforcement agency to forward a copy of the contents of its report to one or more area newspapers.
- Require a law enforcement agency to request that broadcasters and newspapers notify the public of a senior or vulnerable adult medical alert.
- Provide limited immunity from civil liability to a broadcaster or newspaper that notified the public of a senior or vulnerable adult medical alert.
In this legislation, "missing senior or vulnerable adult" would mean a Michigan resident who is one of the following:
- At least 60 years old and believed to be incapable of returning to his or her residence without assistance, and who is reported missing by a person familiar with that individual.
- A vulnerable adult, as defined in Section 145m of the Michigan Penal Code, who is reported missing by a person familiar with that individual. Under this code, "vulnerable adult" includes an individual who is at least 18 years old who requires supervision or personal care or lacks the personal and social skills required to live independently due to age, developmental disability, mental illness, or physical disability.
Almen said area residents who support this idea are encouraged to contact the committee chairman, State Representative Ken Kurtz, and ask that he take up Senate Bill 466 in committee. Representative Kurtz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-373-1794.
For more on the local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, visit www.alz.org/gmc.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.