The founders of the BC Silver Alert say 2019 has been a tragic year for seniors with dementia in the Lower Mainland.
Six seniors, including two in Chilliwack, were found dead or are still missing.
“I’m disappointed and frustrated that after six years since father’s disappearance, more isn’t being done by our province to help locate missing seniors with dementia.” said Sam Noh, co-founder of the BC Silver Alert. “The chances of survival decrease if not found within 24 hours. As dementia patients are typically found by a member of the public, it is imperative that the public is informed as soon as possible.”
Over the five years since the founding of the BC Silver Alert, there have been on average about 29 alerts a year, according to the organization. Over the same period, approximately two people per year have died or have never been found. The BC Silver Alert was founded with the goal of preventing people and their families from suffering that tragedy.
Noh said they know they are not capturing all of the incidents where people with dementia, autism, cognitive issues or memory deficits go missing, but even with this partial picture, authorities should be alarmed.
Two seniors went missing Thursday night alone, one from Vancouver and one from Maple Ridge.
Chilliwack in particular has been hit hard with two seniors going missing, both found deceased, since the summer. On Oct. 26, the body of 79-year-old John Pop was found not far from his home near Chilliwack Lake Road. And on Aug. 21, the body of 86-year-old Ethel ‘Grace’ Baranyk was found more than a month after she went missing.
Lost-person behaviour statistics show that if a person isn’t found in the first 24 hours, their likelihood of survival drops to 77 per cent, then to 60 per cent in the next 24 hours, according to Noh. In the winter, any missing person that meets Silver Alert criteria faces a life-threatening emergency. With an aging population and increased incidence of dementia, Noh said this growing problem needs to be addressed soon.
The Silver Alert is used in 28 U.S. states, and three Canadian provinces have Silver Alert-specific legislation. Despite that, neither the Canadian National Dementia Strategy, BC’s Provincial Guide to Dementia Care, the BC’s Senior’s Advocate or the Alzheimer’s association have any plans for handling this growing problem.
“We know it works in other places – we’d like to see it working here in British Columbia,” according to a BC Silver Alert news release.
“I know from my experience as a Search and Rescue volunteer that methods intended to prevent wandering are fallible,” Noh said. “Access-controlled facilities, GPS trackers and people fail to prevent people from becoming lost. It only makes sense to have a safety net like the Silver Alert.”