COQUITLAM (NEWS1130) – It was September 18th, 2013 when 64-year-old Shin Noh, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, wandered off from his home in Coquitlam. There has been no trace of him since.
A year later, Noh’s family is increasingly desperate for word of what happened to him, and his son Sam continues to push for a province-wide Silver Alert system for people with dementia who go missing.
“I’m hoping that my father’s disappearance will be an example to save other families the anguish and the grief of what we are going through,” Sam tells News1130.
“We are starting to feel the devastation. Without any leads, there’s no hope in finding him. At this point, I think our family is just desperate for closure. We just want to know what happened. Where is he?”
Sam says it’s hard to move on without confirmation of his father’s death; the family has not been able to grieve.
“Whenever we are driving, we are constantly looking at faces, constantly thinking maybe today will be the day that we will receive some sort of resolution. Whenever the phone rings, we get excited, hoping that maybe we will get some news.”
The search for answers has taken its toll on the Noh family, with Sam calling it mentally and physically exhausting. He also deals with the “frustration” of pushing the provincial government to come up with an alert system for the elderly, similar to the Amber Alert for missing children.
“I have met with the government and the seniors advocate regarding the Silver Alert, and and it appears to me right now that the government is more focused on preventative education programs for Alzheimer’s. They’re not really going in the direction of a Silver Alert,” he says.
“Prevention and education are important, but what happens when a missing man with Alzheimer’s walks out the door? There’s nothing in place. What’s really frustrating is that we really have the technology available for a Silver Alert. It just comes down to major stakeholders making a decision and coming up with a protocol.”
Thirty-five US states have overcome challenges and implemented Silver Alert systems. Sam says he will continue to advocate for a provincial program but in the meantime, he is promoting what he calls a citizen’s initiative.
“Because the government is hesitating, Mike Coyle — a member of the search and rescue team that searched for my father — helped us create our own BC Silver Alert.”
The system uses a website in conjunction with Twitter and Facebook accounts and an email alert option.
“Basically our website will scan updates from the RCMP website and, if it meets our criteria, an alert will be issued through social media. It’s just one tool to get the word out quickly,” he explains.
Though not perfect — Sam says they still need the government to use better technology to reach more people — the Noh family hopes the citizen’s Silver Alert will help spare other families the anguish they have gone through over the past year.