Silver Alert Program - The Lost Alzheimer's Patient: June 30, 2011

More than 4.3 million people in the state of Florida are age 60 or over. As many as half million of them have Alzheimer’s disease. This group is particularly vulnerable to wandering and getting lost.

Delores and Aldo Bertolini have spent a lifetime together.

“We married in New York City and I was fresh out of high school when I first met him,” says Delores.

But in 2000, Aldo was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

“He would ride his bike and forget where he was headed so I had to take the bicycle away and I realized things had really started to deteriorate,” says Delores.

Always an explorer, Aldo was now a wanderer. Like many Alzheimer’s patients, he posed a threat behind the wheel.

“He got the keys to the car and he went up for the newspaper, but he ended up in the middle of Skyline Boulevard and just got out of the car.”

“It happens a lot, there are many people who actually get in the car, get lost and not know how to get back home” says Sue Maxwell, Director of Older Adult Services for Lee Memorial Health System.

It’s situations like that which prompted Lee Memorial Health System to team up with local law enforcement and implement the Silver Alert Program.

The Silver Alert Program is a public notification system that puts people on the lookout for a missing Alzheimer’s patient and their car if they’ve hit the road.

“The police then are able to put on the road signs, on the interstate road signs, an alert that gives the style the make of the car the color and the license tag, with the job of helping other people to find that car,” says Maxwell.

It’s networked with programs around the country and has a good track racord in finding lost loved ones.

“It’s been very successful, to date I don’t think we have ever lost anyone, we’ve recovered everyone,” says Maxwell.

As Delores Bertolini knows, every second counts.