Quebec Urged to Implement Life-Saving ‘Silver Alert’ System for Missing Dementia Patients

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The province of Quebec is facing renewed demand for the implementation of a ‘Silver Alert’ system following the tragic discovery of an 85-year-old West Island man’s body on Monday. Makram Ebeid had been previously reported missing last Thursday, before he was eventually found in a woodland area in Pierrefonds. Ebeid had been living with dementia.

Sam Noh, co-founder of B.C. Silver Alert, underscored the urgency of such cases, highlighting that an individual with dementia or Alzheimer’s going missing should be deemed an emergency situation. “The window for their survival rapidly decreases if they are not found within the initial 24 hours,” he warned.

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Noh understands this tragedy intimately; he has endured similar agony when his father, Shin Noh, disappeared almost a decade ago in British Columbia. His father, who had Alzheimer’s, was never located. Spurred by personal grief and a resolve to prevent such tragedies, Noh co-founded B.C. Silver Alert, driving the plea for the system, much like the Amber Alerts for missing children, to be adopted in his province and across Canada.

In fact, during the 2020 provincial election, John Horgan of the NDP government pledged that a Silver Alert system would be set up in B.C., a promise made directly to Sam Noh. Reflecting on his father’s misfortune, Noh considers that the Silver Alert could have changed the outcome for his family.

Silver Alert programs, committed to tracking missing seniors suffering from dementia and related neurological disorders, have already proven successful in the United States. Currently, a pilot version of this system is being trialled in three regions of Quebec.

As the population grows older, incidents like these are expected to become increasingly common, cited Dr. Jose Morais, the chief of geriatric medicine for the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC). “There are about 750,000 dementia patients in Canada today, a figure that’s anticipated to double over the next 15 years,” he said.

Morais also pointed towards the prevalence of these seniors wandering off due to their dementia, sometimes intending to return to an occupation they retired from two decades ago. Silver Alerts, he believes, could be crucial in mobilizing the public to help locate these individuals.

Most missing dementia patients are usually found by ordinary citizens, often within a few kilometres of their residence. In a recent example, Ekaterini Vlachou disappeared from Fleury Hospital in Montreal and was fortuitously found alive five hours later, three kilometres away.

Raising the necessity to act quickly, Noh emphasized the crucial role of public awareness in finding these individuals alive. He also backed the use of alerts and GPS trackers, while Morais raised the need for society to heighten their sensitivity and vigilance towards the elderly in their localities. “We, as part of the community, should be cognizant and assist one another in these situations,” he advised.