BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — With several missing vulnerable adult alerts, also called Silver Alerts, issued in Western New York recently, the Alzheimer’s Association has offered tips to help deal with and prevent these situations.

The Alzheimer’s Association offered the following tips to help families prevent their loved ones from wandering:

  1. 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
  2. Ensure all basic needs are met
    • Toileting, nutrition and hydration
  3. Create a daily plan
    • Involve the person in daily activities, such as folding laundry or preparing dinner
  4. Reassure the person if they feel lost, abandoned or disoriented
  5. Consider using a GPS device
    • If the person is still safely driving, this can help if they get lost
  6. Remove access to car keys
    • If the person is no longer driving, they may forget that they no longer drive
  7. Avoid busy places
    • Shopping malls and other busy areas can be confusing and cause disorientation.
  8. Assess the person’s response to new surroundings
    • Do not leave someone with dementia unsupervised if new surroundings may cause confusion, disorientation or agitation

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease can cause people to lose their ability to recognize familiar places and faces, therefore it’s common for a person living with dementia to wander or become confused about their location.

It can reportedly happen at any stage of the disease, with about 60% of people with dementia wandering at some point. Up to half of people with dementia who wandering not found within 24 hours will suffer serious injury or death.

“While the term ‘wandering’ may suggest aimless movement, individuals who wander have a destination and a purpose,” Amanda Nobrega, interim executive director of the WNY Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, said. “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.”

Warning signs include forgetting how to get to familiar places, talking about former obligations, such as going to work, or wanting to ‘go home,’ even while at home.

Should a family member become lost, the Association says to begin searching immediately, starting with the immediate vicinity, including ‘less traveled’ areas in the home, outside, and nearby surroundings, as most people are found within half a mile of their starting locations.

The Association said to call 911 to file a missing person’s report after 15 minutes of searching. Law enforcement can issue a Silver Alert for anyone missing who is 18 years of age or older with a cognitive disorder, mental disability or brain disorder.

To learn more, click here or call 800-272-3900.

Adam Duke is a digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of his work here.