National Silver Alerts for missing persons with dementia could save lives

Recent cases in Victoria, where the missing person died, fuels support for such a system

Canada currently has no national approach for alerting the public about vulnerable missing adults such as local Saanich man Giles Bixler. The 84-year-old was found alive Thursday Oct. 24, approximately one day later and 15 km from where he was last seen. Some advocates say Canada should adopt a Silver Alerts system similar to that used in the U.S.

Support for a national system has been building over the last decade. Such a system would be similar to the Amber Alert system but for missing and vulnerable adults, particularly seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The idea is to involve as many community members as possible so vulnerable missing seniors can be located more quickly.

READ MORE: UPDATED: Missing 84-year-old Saanich man with Alzheimer’s found in Esquimalt

Advocates for this kind of system, such as Silver Alert Canada and BC Silver Alert, say wandering is a common risk for people living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Around 60 per cent of those affected by these diseases will wander at least once during their affliction.

They may wander because they forget how to get home or where they live, the might believe they are their younger selves heading to a workplace or home from their past, or disappear into densely populated urban areas. They may not even be aware they’re lost.

READ ALSO: New web tool aims to enlist Canadians to help find missing kids

In February, the federal government said it was working on a national dementia strategy because seniors are the fastest-growing population group in Canada and the number of searches for missing persons living with dementia are expected to increase significantly.

Canada has a National Public Alerting System (NPAS), known as AlertReady, that gives emergency management organizations across Canada the ability to quickly warn the public of imminent or ongoing hazards (such as tsunamis or chemical spills) through radio, T.V., email, text or smartphone alerts.

Emergency management is a responsibility shared by federal, provincial and territorial governments, so each jurisdiction is responsible for issuing alerts through the NPAS. In most provinces or territories, alerts about missing senior citizens aren’t broadcast over the NPAS, but Amber Alerts and other civil emergencies are.

In 2017, Manitoba and Alberta amended their Missing Persons Amendment Act to introduce a Silver Alert program, allowing them to broadcast such alerts over the NPAS.

There is no B.C. approach to Silver Alerts and there are limited options for residents. The BC Silver Alert social media tool was created in September 2014 for residents of the Lower Mainland. For residents outside this area, checking local news and the website for local police are currently the best options available.

sophie.heizer@saanichnews.com


Like us on Facebook and follow @yrlocaljourno

Dementia strategymissing personSeniors

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

One dead as fish boat sinks off southern Vancouver Island

Shawnigan Lake-registered Arctic Fox II went down off Cape Flattery, west of Victoria

Three active COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island

Since July 24, Central island has had five new cases, North one, South none

Victoria police seize replica handgun and bullets

Unrelated call leads police to functional replica

Flaming object thrown through Victoria restaurant window

Police looking for any witnesses to early-morning incident

Mysterious Brazilian honey barrel appears at Saanich intersection

Barrel spotted on West Saanich Road part of intersection construction project, district says

Man, 54, charged in connection with fatal attack of Red Deer doctor

Doctor was killed in his walk-in clinic on Monday

Landlord takes front door, windows after single B.C. mom late with rent

Maple Ridge mom gets help from community generosity and government

42 more people test positive for COVID-19 in B.C.

The province has recorded no new deaths in recent days

Joe Biden selects California Sen. Kamala Harris as running mate

Harris and Biden plan to deliver remarks Wednesday in Wilmington

Lawsuit launched after Florida child handcuffed, booked and briefly jailed

Suit alleges “deliberate indifference” to what should have been handled as a behavioural issue

Russia approves vaccine, Putin hopes to begin mass production

Critic calls decision to proceed without thorough testing ‘dangerous and grossly immoral’

Doctor slain in Alberta medical clinic was devoted father, husband

Red Deer doctors on edge after attack on colleague who had two young daughters

Feds offer ‘life preserver’ funds to BC Ferries as pandemic sinks revenue

For every dollar the province spends the federal government will match

Most Read