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Today, there are more than 6 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease in the United States, with 233,000 here in Illinois. Alzheimer’s disease can cause people to lose their ability to recognize familiar places and faces. It’s common for a person living with dementia to wander or become lost or confused about their location, and it can happen at any stage of the disease. In fact, it is estimated that 60% of people with dementia will wander and become lost at some point, many do so repeatedly. If not found within 24 hours, up to half of wandering individuals will suffer serious injury or death.

There are several warning signs that lead to wandering including forgetting how to get to familiar places, talking about fulfilling former obligations, such as going to work and trying or wanting to “go home” even when at home.

On January 1, 2016 Silver Search legislation was passed in Illinois. Silver Search is a coordinated effort to bring awareness, education, and resources to help find and safely return people with Alzheimer’s or dementia that go missing. The Silver Search program wants to bring to light the increasing incidences of people with Alzheimer’s or dementia that get lost and ways in which the public can help law enforcement return them home safely.

“While the term ‘wandering’ may suggest aimless movement, individuals who wander have a destination and a purpose,” said Delia Jervier, Executive Director of Alzheimer’s Association, Illinois Chapter. “For example, a person who wanders may have a personal need such as going to the bathroom. And because people living with dementia can become disoriented even in a familiar place, this simple task can become a challenge and may prompt a person to leave the house”.

“Just as Amber Alert is for missing children; Silver Search is for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Many of those that wander may still have a driver’s license, may still be in a vehicle, may still be on our roadways,” Illinois State Police Missing Persons Coordinator Craig Burge said. “So it creates a hardship for law enforcement to determine where these people might be located.”

To help families prevent their loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia from wandering, the Alzheimer’s Association offers these tips:

● Identify the time of day the person is most likely to wander. Plan things to do during this time including exercise as it may help reduce anxiety, agitation and restlessness.

● Ensure all basic needs are met. This would include toileting, nutrition and hydration.

● Create a daily plan. Involve the person in daily activities, such as folding laundry or preparing dinner.

● Reassure the person if he or she feels lost, abandoned or disoriented.

● Consider using a GPS device. If the person is still safely driving, this can help if they get lost.

● Remove access to car keys. If the person is no longer driving, they may forget that they no longer drive.

● Avoid busy places. Shopping malls and other busy areas can be confusing and cause disorientation.

● Assess the person’s response to new surroundings. Do not leave someone with dementia unsupervised if new surroundings may cause confusion, disorientation or agitation

If a family member does wander and get lost, begin your search immediately. Start by searching the immediate vicinity, including “less-traveled” areas in your home. Outside the home, search the yard and nearby surroundings. Most wanderers are found within a half mile of their homes or starting location. If, after 15 minutes, the person is not located, call 911 to file a missing person’s report.

To learn more about ways to prevent wandering or how to take action when wandering occurs, visit or call 800-272-3900.



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Alzheimer's Association Illinois Chapter

2200 Cabot Dr., Suite 460

Lisle, IL 60532

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