Silver Alert coordinators fire back at social media critics: Support the caregivers

Silver Alert

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) — Those in charge of the Wisconsin Silver Alert program are telling people to support caregivers of those with dementia rather than blame them.

Silver Alerts were started by the Department of Justice in Wisconsin in August 2014 to alert the public when a senior citizen goes missing.

There have been 154 alerts, and all but six missing seniors have been found safe.

More than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease.

Marilyn Ziemer and her husband Roy met in Shawano in 1969. The couple was very active, but things have changed.

“Roy has the terrible disease of Alzheimer’s,” Ziemer said.

Caring for Roy became challenging.

“They revert back to a child and it was like a two-year-old,” Ziemer said. “You’re on call 24 hours.”

In 2015, more than 15 million people caring for someone with Alzheimer’s gave an estimated $18.1 billion worth of unpaid care.

Those who post Wisconsin’s Silver Alerts on social media sites said those same caregivers get a lot of criticism in those posts from people who may not understand.

“They don’t. Until you’ve been there and have done that,” said Ziemer.

“A lot of the comments are ‘Why is the family still letting this person drive?’ And that’s a valid question, but it’s a lot more to it than that,” said Kari Orn, a Silver Alert coordinator.

That’s why Tuesday morning, organizers wanted to spread the word about just how challenging caring for a loved one can be.

“Caregiving is probably one of the hardest jobs out there, and I just wanted everybody to give the caregivers a little bit of… cut them a little slack,” Orn said.

The Facebook post called for the community to support caregivers and help them out if possible.

“People are saying thank you for posting that, that caregivers don’t get enough credit. And I think with this time of year coming, it’s a stressful time for everybody, and then if you have added stresses of taking care of elderly loved ones and wanting to make sure that those people are included and that the holidays are a nice time for everybody,” Orn said.

She offered, “Maybe make a meal or offer to shovel someone’s sidewalks. Just little things people can do to really help caregivers when they already have a lot on their plate.”

Tuesday the Department of Transportation announced it’s enhancing its electronic message boards to include more details during a Silver Alert or Amber Alert that involve a motor vehicle, including a description of the vehicle and license plate number, instead of telling drivers to tune to a radio station or call 511 for that information.