2019 has been a tragic year for seniors with dementia in the Lower Mainland of BC, with six dead or missing to date in the area.
We haven’t seen a year this bad since we started tracking Silver Alert statistics in 2014.
Over the 5 years since the founding of the BC Silver alert we’ve averaged about 29 alerts a year. Over the same period approximately 2 people per year have died, or have never been found. The BC Silver Alert was founded with the goal of preventing people and their families from suffering that tragedy.
We know from experience that we’re not capturing all of the incidents where people with dementia, autism, cognitive issues or memory deficits go missing, and we feel that even this partial picture should be alarming, but 2019 has been extreme – and at the time of writing this article there’s another missing person in Maple Ridge, bringing the possible total to seven people.
Chilliwack in particular has been hit hard with two seniors going missing, both found deceased, since the summer.
“I’m disappointed and frustrated that after 6 years since father’s disappearance, more isn’t being done by our province to help locate missing seniors with dementia.” said Sam Noh, co-founder of the BC Silver Alert. “The chances of survival decrease if not found within 24 hours. As dementia patients are typically found by a member of the public, it is imperative that the public is informed as soon as possible.”
Lost person behaviour statistics show that if a person isn’t found in the first 24 hours, their rate of survival drops to 77%, then to 60% in the next 24 hours. In the winter any missing person that meets Silver Alert criteria is a life threatening emergency. With an ageing population, and increased incidence of dementia, we feel this is a growing problem that needs to be addressed soon.
The Silver Alert, is used in 28 US states and three Canadian provinces have Silver Alert specific legislation. Despite that neither the Canadian National Dementia Strategy, BC’s Provincial Guide to Dementia Care, the BC’s Senior’s Advocate or the the Alzheimer’s association have any plans for handling this growing problem. We know it works in other places, we’d like to see it working here in British Columbia.
As we can see from the list of people below, current systems such as GPS trackers, and care facilities with access controls, have flaws. The BC Silver Alert was founded to ensure those flaws are not fatal.
I know from my experience as a Search and Rescue volunteer that methods intended to prevent wandering are fallible. Access controlled facilities, GPS trackers and people fail to prevent people from becoming lost. It only makes sense to have a safety net like the Silver Alert
In the coming months the BC Silver Alert will be taking part in discussions with stakeholders on how to proceed. If you have questions or want to help, please contact us and we will keep you informed.
North Vancouver, April 2019
In April, Vincent Che of North Vancouver went missing in North Vancouver near Lynn Valley while out for a walk. Despite security camera footage capturing him walking eastbound on Coleman Street, and a multi-day search effort by North Shore Rescue, friends, family and community members, he was not found and remains missing.
Vancouver, July 2019
In July, Vancouver Police asked for assistance locating 61 year old David Sullivan who was last seen walking on Alexander Street near Gore Street. After reporting him found, the police realized they had the wrong person and renewed their appeal for help in September. Mr Sullivan is still missing.
Chilliwack, July 2019
Later in July an 96 year old Chilliwack woman,Grace Baranyk, went missing from her home on Lenora Crescent. A massive weeks long search involving SAR volunteers, community and family turned up nothing. In August, her remains were found on a private property near where she had gone missing.
Chillwack, October 2019
Then in October another senior in Chilliwack, 79 year old Ioan (John) Pop went missing near Teskey Road. Like many families, Ioan’s family had provided him with a GPS tracker device which unfortunately had stopped working. Sadly, he was found deceased a few days later.
Langley, November 2019
On November 1st, Lorne Herron went missing from his care facility in Fort Langley. Lorne had recently moved to Langley from Abbotsford. Despite a Search and Rescue and community response, Lorne remains missing.
Richmond, November 2018
Earlier this month a 75 year old woman, Feng Qin Zhou, went missing from the 7000 block of Firbridge Way in Richmond. She was also spotted on security cameras. Despite a huge community response, ms Zhou remains missing – and the search for her is continuing.
The Silver Alert was founded after Shin Noh, a Coquitlam man with Dementia, went missing September 18th, 2013. Sam Noh, Shin’s son, organised a massive community response to search for his father. Over the weeks of searching it was learned that there had been several sightings of Mr Noh in the hours after he went missing – information that would have been useful for the search.
One year later, Sam Noh and Michael Coyle, one of the Search and Rescue volunteers who assisted searching for Mr Noh, founded the BC Silver Alert. The goal; alert the public to missing people with dementia, autism or other cognitive or memory issues.
Our “Citizen’s Silver Alert” is an opt-in system that alerts people via email and social media when the police issue appeals for assistance. It is not a perfect system. Police agencies don’t always use the right key words so we can tell if someone meets the criteria, Alerts are broad and don’t always reach the right people. With your support we’d like to design a better system.