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As we drive the Texas highways, from time to time we see a Silver Alert. We also receive Silver Alerts on our cell phones, asking us to help find a missing elder, often a person with dementia who has wandered off and become confused. How effective are these alerts?

Analyzing the Texas Silver Alert System

On February 13, 2023, an analysis of the Texas Silver Alert reporting system of the Texas Department of Public Safety 2017-2022 was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Open Network.

  • During this period, 94.7% of missing elders were found.
  • Silver Alerts were issued at a faster rate than the elderly population grew.
  • Newer vehicles, 2012 and newer, tended to be used: these would let someone use onboard navigation, decreasing the need to remember where the driver wants to go and how to get there. Since people tend to remember how to get around the neighborhood or how to get to the store or to church but not how to get to another city, onboard navigation increases the likelihood of cross-state or even interstate travel.
  • Men averaging 79 years old (with half older than 79) were more likely to grab the keys and head out.
  • Holidays, nights and, curiously, Wednesdays were peak travel times.

Preventive measures to safeguard our elders

We can be comforted by the find rate but must note that not everyone was found alive. Keeping in charge of the keys and keeping an eye on our elders on holidays, at night, and, for whatever reason, on Wednesdays, may help prevent them from being another statistic.

 

Elder law attorney, Terry Garrett, CELA, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is an Approved Guardianship Attorney. She assists people in elder law, estate and special needs planning, guardianship and settling estates. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

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