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State looks into alert system for missing, endangered elderly people

Updated: Tuesday, February 25 2014, 11:15 PM CST
Reported by: James Tully

HARRISBURG -- When Richard Schutter of Clay Township went missing Sunday night, it took a combination of Northern Lancaster Regional and state police two days to eventually locate his body.  

We're investigating if the state is doing enough to track down your loved ones if they wander off. The system that Pennsylvania currently has in place is called the Missing Endangered Person Advisory System (MEPAS).  

The MEPAS system is viewed as a scaled back Amber Alert system. It does not go across cell phones like the Amber Alert does, and also does not go across the highway advisory system according to PennDOT.

"I think it's something we need to take a look at, make sure it's doing everything you need to be doing if it's not will tweak it," says state Sen. Richard Alloway, R-33.

Alloway helped author the amendment to the Amber Alert System law that put MEPAS in effect. We found 23 states that have a Silver Alert, which is basically an Amber Alert for seniors or endangered people. 

Nine more states have similar criteria and Pennsyvania is among the 10 that have some kind of program in place. There are eight states that do not have a system at all.

Michelle Lisk with SYNERGY Homecare tells me something as simple as a door alarm to alert when a person leaves a room could have saved a life in these recent situations.

When we talk about dementia and Alzheimer's, Lisk says recognition is key.

Here are some warning signs Lisk provided:

- Memory changes that disrupt daily life
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Confusion with time or place

Here are some things you can do to prevent dangerous situations with anyone who suffers from either dementia or Alzheimer's:

- Create a routine
- Ensure all basic needs are met
- Reassure and calm the person if confusion occurs
State looks into alert system for missing, endangered elderly people

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