So many families are dealing with a relative suffering from Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia that a Liberal backbencher wants Ontario to adopt a system of Silver Alerts similar to the Amber Alerts used when children go missing.
People suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia are prone to wandering and frequently get lost, said Hamilton Liberal Sophia Aggelonitis, who had a scare involving her grandmother, who went missing after a family dinner.
'Not every family has the power, strength and resources to be able to deal with someone who had that disease.' — Rosario Marchese
"We found her alive, but we were very lucky," said Aggelonitis.
"She decided to wander off and we found her hours later in a very wooded area far from home. This wandering is something that is very, very common for Alzheimer's."
Several members of the legislature told similar stories about family members or friends who suffered from Alzheimer's, and spoke in support of the motion to create Silver Alerts.
Deputy Opposition Leader Christine Elliott said she was waiting for a friend outside a hospital one evening when she saw an elderly woman in pyjamas and slippers leave the hospital and cross the street into a subdivision.
"I followed her in my car and found her several blocks away, standing in the middle of the street, quite upset and actually crying," Elliott told the legislature.
"I was able to persuade her to get into the car with me and I took her back to the hospital, but it could have ended quite differently."
New Democrat Rosario Marchese also spoke in support of the Silver Alerts, and talked about how his family struggled after his father was diagnosed with dementia and found there were virtually no supports to help them cope.
Silver Alerts in 12 U.S. states
"Yes, he like most others wandered and had violent episodes where many of us had to control [him]," said Marchese.
"Not every family has the power, strength and resources to be able to deal with someone who had that disease."
The Silver Alert system has already proven to be a success in 12 U.S. states including Florida and North Carolina, said Aggelonitis.
"If it is easy to do, if we can work with the Amber Alert, the infrastructure that's all there, this would not be that hard to implement," she said.
There are 500,000 people in Canada with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, said Aggelonitis, and that number is expected to quickly grow to 1.3 million as the population ages.
However, it's not just a disease that affects the elderly.
The Alzheimer Society of Canada said about 70,000 Canadians with dementia are under age 65, and women represent 72 per cent of all Alzheimer's cases.