SHERMAN, TX-Silver Alerts are issued when senior citizens are reported missing and Grayson County Emergency Management said three were issued this year. But police said there's one guideline family members may not know about.
When a senior who has Alzheimer's or dementia goes missing, family members are required to provide written diagnosis to law enforcement before the Silver Alert is issued. Local law enforcement tell us what families can do to help find a loved one when every second counts.
Two months ago, Sherman police Sgt. Bruce Dawsey said an elderly woman, who has dementia, went missing.
"It was late at night, it was an elderly person that had wandered off and we didn't have that information to verify. Therefore, the Silver Alert, the issuance of it, was delayed," he said.
The woman was found safe, but Dawsey said they might have been able to locate her faster.
"The documentation is important because even if they are 65 and the family tells us 'yes, they have Alzheimer's and they've wandered off and they're in danger.' Without that documented letter from a care provider stating that they've been diagnosed with this condition, we can't issue a Silver Alert," he said.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, a missing senior's family must provide a written diagnosis signed by doctor to law enforcement stating that their loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's or dementia before a Silver Alert can be issued.
"If your family member, loved one, gets a diagnosis of this type and they're a senior, that you go ahead and get that in writing and put it in a plastic bag put it on the refrigerator, have that handy."
Grayson County Emergency manager, Sarah Somers, said without the document law enforcement loses precious time in their search.
"This particular one that helps us utilize all the tools in the state of Texas, put message boards up we see on highways and do those kinds of things, we can't do that unless that written diagnosis is available," she said.
And Dawsey said the delay can put the missing senior in danger.
"Time of the essence, especially if they're able to operate a motor vehicle. Sometimes they may have a license or they have access to a vehicle and they don't realize what's going on," he said.
"Every second counts, when we know someone may be in danger. That's part of the criteria. We want to move as quickly as possible," said Somers.
If you are concerned that a loved one may have Alzheimer's or dementia, see the doctor.
Texas Department of Public Safety:
Silver Alert Criteria
A requesting law enforcement agency must meet all the below criteria in order to activate the State Silver Alert Network:
Is the missing person 65 years of age or older?
Is the senior citizen's domicile in Texas?
Does the senior citizen have a diagnosed impaired mental condition, and does the senior citizen's disappearance pose a credible threat to the senior citizen's health and safety? (Law enforcement shall require the family or legal guardian of the missing senior citizen to provide documentation from a medical or mental health professional of the senior citizen's condition).
Is it confirmed that an investigation has taken place verifying that the senior citizen's disappearance is due to his/her impaired mental condition, and alternative reasons for the senior citizen's disappearance have been ruled out?
Is the Silver Alert request within 72 hours of the senior citizen's disappearance?
Is there sufficient information available to disseminate to the public that could assist in locating the senior citizen? (Highway signs will be activated only if accurate vehicle information is available AND it is confirmed that the senior citizen was driving the vehicle at the time of the disappearance).
Note: Medical documentation required for activation of the state's Silver Alert Network should appear on physician's letterhead, indicating the impaired mental condition, date of diagnosis, patient's name, with physician's signature.