Published in the July 9, 2015 edition

WAKEFIELD — The Wakefield Police Department has developed the Wakefield Wanderer’s Alert Program in order to help improve the response time when a person with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or other severe cognitive impairment is reported missing.

The Wanderer’s Alert Program is part of Wakefield’s efforts to implement the Massachusetts’ Silver Alert Community Response System on a local level. The Massachusetts Silver Alert Law outlines a set of procedures and communications protocols among state and local public safety and human service agencies in order to identify people with dementia who have wandered or become lost and return them safely to their homes.

Over 60 percent of people with Alzheimer’s or a related disorder will wander. Any family that is directly affected by dementia should consider registering for Wanderer’s Alert. Very few families expect a family member to go missing until it happens for the first time. Approximately six in 10 dementia victims will wander at least once, health-care statistics show and the numbers are growing worldwide, fueled primarily by Alzheimer’s disease. If not found within 24 hours, up to half of wandering seniors with dementia suffer serious injury or death.

The program involves working with people who have a family member at risk of wandering in order to collect information and a recent photograph that can help the police identify and locate the person. Collecting this confidential information before an incident occurs enables the police department to begin search procedures immediately, as collection of data after the person has already gone missing can delay an effective search for an hour or more, increasing the chances that the wanderer will be in danger.

There is no age requirement to be entered into this program. Residents who have a loved one with a serious cognitive impairment are encouraged to contact Officer Toothaker at 339-219-4519 for more information. Wakefield Alert Registration forms are available online here or at the McCarthy Senior Center.