Alzheimer’s disease is an illness that has an overwhelming impact on the people who develop it and the families who care for them.
The number of Canadians with the disease is on the rise. According the Alzheimer Society of Canada, Canadians living with the cognitive impairment, including dementia, stands at 747,000 and will double to 1.4 million by 2031.
The family of Shin Noh, a Coquiltam man who went missing without a trace one year ago today, knows all too well the anguish that Alzheimer’s disease can bring.
“Our family wants to know what happened. We want to grieve because you’re hanging there without any confirmation if he’s alive or not?” says Shin’s son, Sam Noh.
They are turning their pain into advocacy.
On Saturday, Shin’s family, friends and community members sadly commemorated Shin’s one year disappearance by holding the 1st Annual Walk for Shin in Coquitlam to raise awareness for the “Silver Alert.”
Shin’s son, along with two others have developed a B.C. Citizen’s Silver Alert website and facebook page.
“We came up with an online silver tool, which scans local RCMP websites for any press releases for someone with Alzheimer’s who’s gone missing. It automatically activates our alerting channels through Facebook, Twitter and e-mail,” says Sam.
Last September, 64-year-old Shin went missing after he left his Coquitlam home for a morning walk. His family believes the Silver Alert could have made a difference, and now they want to ensure other families never suffer through the same experience.
Their efforts have raised the attention of Coquiltam- Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson. She has presented a private members’ bill calling for a Silver Alert similar to the current Amber Alert system. Currently , there is no immediate notification to the public when someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia goes missing. And the results, Robinson says, can be tragic.
“It needs to be community response. There’s no sense in alerting people in Golden when someone in Coquitlam has gone missing.”
The provincial government has not passed the Silver Alert. B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake says there are a number of concerns with enacting it.
“It would desensitize people so then Amber Alerts would become less effective,” said Lake. That’s a very real concern for jurisdictions that look at a Silver Alert type of program. There are many programs in place with the RCMP and with the residential care homes.”
But Shin’s family continues to lead the charge for the Silver Alert in the hopes it would spare other families the immense grief they have endured this past year.
“Time is of the essence when an Alzheimer’s patient goes missing. Time is critical. We need something the moment they walk out the door.” says Sam.