If Your Loved One Wanders, Don’t Wait to Dial 911

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Fact checked by Catherine Gianaro


Has a loud and sudden alert from your phone, announcing an Amber Alert, ever surprised you? These notifications that a child has been abducted spread the word quickly and enlist the public’s help in finding the missing person.

But what about when adults with cognitive disabilities or other issues wander away? Many states, such as Florida and Mississippi, have enacted additional alerts: the Silver Alert for seniors with dementia, or the Purple Alert for disabled adults. Others are considering them.

Instead of this rainbow of alerts, Illinois has an all-encompassing Endangered Missing Person Advisory, which took effect in 2010, and applies to everyone not covered by Amber Alert. Anyone who disappears with a health condition or who may be the victim of a crime falls into this category. Last year, Illinois issued 127 missing person advisories, down from 164 the year before.

What should a caregiver do if their charge vanishes?

“Contact law enforcement (911) immediately,” says Craig Burge, missing persons coordinator for the Illinois State Police. “Call now, not later, because in three or four hours, that search has exponentially widened.”

Originally published in the Summer/Fall 2024 print issue