September 19, 2015 (San Diego)--San Diego County officials today launched a new type of community alert to help find seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and others who are reported missing and in danger.
The Sheriff’s Department and other local law enforcement agencies can now directly notify the public via email and cell phone text message when a person with dementia or other cognitive impairment, or with a developmental disability, goes missing in the region.
“Wandering is a huge concern for families dealing with Alzheimer’s and this new alert could bring real peace of mind and save lives,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob. “It gives law enforcement a powerful tool to enlist the public’s help with the safe recovery of missing persons at risk.”
The alert is the latest initiative from The Alzheimer’s Project, a county-led effort created last year to find a cure and to help those with the disease, along with their caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that six in 10 people with dementia will at one point wander from their homes or when they’re out.
“I’m pleased we can now quickly target alerts to people who live in the immediate area where a person is missing,” said Supervisor Ron Roberts, who suggested investigating the technology during an Alzheimer’s Project presentation by Supervisor Jacob. “The sooner we engage the public, the better our chances the lost individual will make it home safely.”
Notifications will be issued through the county’s AlertSanDiego system, which was created to alert residents about wildfires and other emergencies. The system can access cell phones and email addresses registered by the public and allows the Sheriff’s Department to issue alerts in targeted communities.
"I've watched Sheriff's Deputies, along with volunteer Search and Rescue, perform miracles when it comes to finding the lost," commented Sheriff Bill Gore. "We can't do it alone though. We need the community to help us find those who go missing and this alert system will help us get the information to the community faster. In these matters, time is of the essence."
Concerns over wandering were heightened last fall when 75-year-old Sally Estabrook, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, walked away from a campground near Julian. Her body was later found during an extensive search.
County officials encourage residents to sign up to receive AlertSanDiego notifications. More than 375,000 cell phone and email addresses are already registered with the program.
To register, go to readysandiego.org/