New Illinois initiative helps find people with dementia

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois has launched an initiative that aims to inform police officers and the public about how to spot and assist elderly people suffering from dementia.

Under the Silver Search Awareness Campaign, police recruits and officers statewide will be trained on warning signs, interacting with those affected by dementia and the criteria for initiating a Silver Search — a special category of missing persons focused on senior citizens.

The campaign is the result of a bill sponsored by Democratic Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston and Democratic Rep. Natalie Manley of Joliet.

The state introduced the campaign on Nov. 1, the Southern Illinoisan reported.

Frank Giancamilli, a Chicago police spokesman, said all new police recruits are required to take two courses dealing with the elderly during their six-month-long academy training. One is a four-hour course that focuses on elder abuse and neglect. The other is a two-hour course that deals with missing persons cases, part of which centers on the elderly, Giancamilli said. He said those courses meet all state requirements.

In a news release provided by The Alzheimer’s Association, Biss said the “Silver Search program is a crucial step toward making our state safe for the hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans with Alzheimer’s disease.”

A task force has been created to assist in the effort, according to the release.

“The Silver Search Task force brings agencies and organizations together with the common goal of creating a Silver Search program and toolkit to assist in missing person cases involving those with Alzheimer’s or dementia,” according to the release.

Craig Burge, missing person coordinator for the Illinois State Police, said in the release that missing person cases are always a race against the clock.

“In any missing person case, time is of the essence,” Burge said. “Nowhere is that more evident than situations where persons with Alzheimer’s or dementia go missing.”

Theresa Dewey, a care navigator with the Alzheimer’s Association, said 60 percent of those diagnosed with dementia wander at some point.

“It only takes a moment of disorientation to become lost, and the situation can rapidly become dangerous,” Dewey said.

Dewey said those who suffer from dementia are more likely to comply if the person approaching them has an understanding of the condition.

Contributing: Stefano Esposito

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