Expansion is needed for the Silver Alert system

Johnson City Press • Nov 9, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Improvements are needed to the Tennessee’s Silver Alert System. Much like the Amber Alert System for missing or abducted children, the Silver Alert program helps locate missing Tennesseans who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or similar dementia.

It’s such a good idea that advocates are pushing Congress to implement a national Silver Alert System. This would allow states to better coordinate searches for dementia patients who go missing.

More education of the Silver Alert program is needed here in Tennessee. Sometimes alerts don’t go out as quickly as they should.

The Tennessee General Assembly, after hearing from experts in the field, voted in 2010 to remove a previous age requirement and include any citizen with Alzheimer’s, dementia or a physical impairment under the program. Before the change, the Silver Alert System only applied to those 60 or older.

The Alzheimer’s Association says more than 110,000 Tennesseans and as many as 6 million persons nationwide are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers estimate the number of Americans diagnosed with the disease could quadruple by 2050.

Such an increase would place a heavy burden on health care systems and caregivers around the world. How to deal with such an extraordinary strain on public health resources is something local, state and federal governments should begin addressing now.

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be a 24-hour-a-day job. Sometimes symptoms, such as hallucinations or aggressive behavior, may call for much more specialized care than a family member can provide.

Alzheimer’s care is a topic that the General Assembly should continue to address when it returns to Nashville next year. Expanding the scope of the Silver Alert System was a fine start, but much more is needed.

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