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Terms to Know: Silver Alert

Feb 15,2023

“Silver Alert – The car and dad are missing.”

If you have a family member that is living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia and is still driving, you know how upsetting this statement is.

What is a Silver Alert?

Silver alerts notify the public of missing older adults with a documented mental condition who may have wandered, such as those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Often it involves someone who has not returned after driving off alone in their vehicles.

Having the *time to stop driving* conversation is one of the hardest talks for families to have, but it is one of the most critical conversations to have early in their diagnosis. Not only will a dementia effect someone’s ability to remember where they are going or how to get back home, but as dementia progresses, it can significantly impair a person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America states that the ability to safely operate a vehicle and adhere to traffic laws takes hundreds of micro-steps and decisions which may be adversely impacted by dementia.

Research has shown that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can:

  • Impact a person’s sensory perceptions, such as depth or peripheral vision.
  • Impair a person’s judgment (e.g., the ability to decide if there is enough time to turn left before oncoming vehicles arrive).
  • Cause general confusion, including discerning the difference between red and green lights, gas and brake pedals, and which side of the street to drive on.
  • Lead to disorientation, leading individuals to get lost more often, even in the most familiar places.

It is important to stay informed of changes in the condition of a loved one with dementia. Even if their condition does not appear to impair their driving, make sure you check in regularly and talk about any concerns. Taking proactive measures will ensure safety for all involved.

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