Miami Researchers Examine Safeguards For 'Wandering' Adults

Friday, March 26, 2010 Research News
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New study questions effectiveness of national Silver Alert program

OXFORD, Ohio, March 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A group of Miami University researchers studying the national Silver Alert program for locating missing adults with dementia or other cognitive impairments question the program's effectiveness and safety, given the speed in which it's being implemented throughout the country. The gerontology group's findings are published in the February issue of The Gerontologist.

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The Silver Alert program - an expansion of the AMBER (America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response) Alert program - is less than a year old in Ohio and relatively new for most other states in the country, according to the sociology and gerontology researchers. The study looks at the implications of the technology.

"Silver Alerts are intended to help identify vulnerable individuals with cognitive impairments or dementia who may become missing, (and) the sharing of public information about them can be potentially dangerous," said Lydia Manning, a doctoral student in the social gerontology program at Miami. "We also raise concerns that there is very little research about the extent and nature of the problem of wandering itself among those with dementia."

According to the group, the population is rapidly aging with a projection of a massive increase in the number of individuals who will have dementia and other cognitive impairments. They suggest the problem of "wandering" in these individuals be systematically examined to evaluate whether Silver Alerts are an appropriate solution.

"The development of policies to locate and return missing elders with dementia and other cognitive impairments has outstripped the social science knowledge in the field," said Glenn Muschert, associate professor of sociology and gerontology. "We're urging caution in the area of policy development, in order make sure such policies rationally address the problem itself."

"This paper brings attention to the need for more careful study of the prevalence and nature of wandering as a behavior of those with cognitive impairments and/or dementia in an era when population aging is changing what is expected in later life," Manning said.

The gerontology and sociology researchers are seeking funding to conduct a national-level incidence study of cases of missing seniors with dementia, as well as regional funding to study the problem in the southwestern Ohio region.

"We'll be developing predictions about future trends and conducting analysis of existing policies to mitigate the problem of critical wandering among adults with dementia here in Ohio and across the country," Muschert said.

In addition to Muschert and Manning, Miami researchers involved in the study include: Jennifer Kinney, professor, and J. Scott Brown, associate professor, both of sociology and gerontology; Gina Petonito, visiting associate professor, and Robert Suefer, associate professor, both of sociology; Dawn Carr, research associate at the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami; Takashi Yamashita, doctoral student, and Tirth Raj Bhatta, graduate student, in the social gerontology program.

Available Topic Expert(s): For information on the listed expert(s), click appropriate link.

Glenn Muschert

SOURCE Miami University

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