Raleigh, N.C. — The new statewide Silver Alert system was designed to help authorities track down adults with memory problems who wander off. Like Mildred Rogers, 76, who went missing in August. She suffered from Alzheimer's disease and by the time searchers found her, it was too late.
"Despite all the promises that she would not walk except on paved surfaces and sidewalks, she wandered down a dirt trail over near Yonkers Road," said H.B. Rogers, Mildred's husband.
Police found Rogers' body about 20 yards from a trail in Crabtree Creek.
Rogers' story and others like it captured the attention of lawmakers at the General Assembly, who passed a bill creating the Silver Alert system. It works similar to the Amber Alert with children, but it is for adults with dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
"This is the best calling that we can use our legislative abilities to get these laws on the books,” Rep. Marylyn Avila said.
Back when Rogers disappeared, law enforcement officers would typically wait 24 hours before spreading the word about a missing adult. The Silver Alert eliminates the wait period.
"We've been waiting for a long time for people to really understand that wandering is a big issue with people with dementia,” said Alice Watkins, executive director of the Regional Alzheimer's Association. She said one in every three families has someone suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
"I wish it would have been in effect when my wife disappeared. I don't know if it would have done any good, but I would like to think so," Rogers said.
The Silver Alert also allows caregivers and nursing homes to report a person missing. In the past, only a family member could report an adult missing.