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Copyright 2009-2010 by
Mary Brotherton
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Inside my Brain

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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Over 5,000,000 people in the United States have Alzheimer’s; half of these people tend to wander and become lost. A lost person with any form of dementia represents a critical emergency. Unaware of their surroundings or their situations, they don’t call out for help or respond to those calling out to them. Half of these people can become severely or even fatally injured if not located quickly. The number of people experiencing this risk will grow dramatically, as the number of people with Alzheimer’s is expected to triple by the year 2050.

Project Lifesaver is a ground-breaking rapid response program aiding victims suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders such as Autism or other forms of dementia. Project Lifesaver is an internationally recognized program that has been proven to save the lives of patients who have wandered and become lost. It is an active response to the problem of locating wandering patients before they fall victim to the elements, accidents, or predators.

Project Lifesaver uses electronic tracking systems to locate the patient during a wandering incident. Relying on proven radio technology and specially trained search and rescue teams, Project Lifesaver positively locates and identifies a person who has wandered away from home or a care facility in as little as 30 minutes, on average. Project Lifesaver teams are specially trained, not only in search and rescue and the use of the electronic tracking equipment, but also in the methods necessary to communicate with a person who has Alzheimer’s disease or related disorders. Locating the individual is only part of the mission. The person who is located will be disoriented, anxious, and untrusting. The Project Lifesaver team knows how to approach the person, gain their trust and put him or her at ease.

A non-profit organization, Project Lifesaver is focused on people and partnerships. Funded solely by private donations and grants from the public sector, Project Lifesaver joins law enforcement, civic groups, local business and caregivers in developing and strengthening all aspects of the program.
In addition to rescues and education, one of the key features of the Project Lifesaver program is fundraising. Fundraising makes it possible for families in financial need to have the protection, and peace of mind that comes from knowing that their loved one can be brought home quickly if he or she wanders.

In Brevard County, the Sheriff’s Department’s Community Relations Unit, Triad, and the Senior Help Line banded together in 2002 to begin placing wristbands on citizens who might be at risk. From the elderly man with Alzheimer’s or the woman with Dementia, to the young boy with Autism or the teenaged girl with Down Syndrome - anyone who wanders and is unable to communicate – have benefited from the technology and skilled teams behind Project Lifesaver.

Families and caregivers can relax from the knowledge that if a patient does wander away from home or a care facility, he or she can be returned safely and quickly. Typical search and rescue efforts once took days, and often ended with tragic results. With Project Lifesaver, a wandering person who cannot communicate can be found as effectively as the Lexus equipped with LoJack.

Once a community makes the decision to implement Project Lifesaver, the costs in terms of finances and man-hours spent searching for someone who has qualified for the program are greatly reduced. Searches for wandering individuals that have taken days and dozens of searchers have been successfully concluded in less than an hour throughout the world.

Clients that are enrolled in the Project Lifesaver program wear a personalized wristband that emits a tracking signal. When caregivers notify the local Project Lifesaver agency that the person is missing, a search and rescue team responds to the client’s area and starts searching with the mobile locater tracking system. Search times have been reduced from days to minutes. In over 1000 searches, there have been no reported serious injuries or deaths. Recovery times average less than 30 minutes.

Project Lifesaver’s goal is to provide the benefits of the program to all in need regardless of their ability to pay. Funding for the organization comes from private donations and grants from government, corporations and charitable foundations. All contributions made to Project Lifesaver are tax deductible and are used directly for program operations including rescues, equipment and education.

Applications for Project Lifesaver bracelets are available through the Senior Helpline at 321-631-2747. The cost of a bracelet is $290 with required monthly battery replacements costing an additional $100. Sponsored bracelets may be available to clients who qualify under the federal poverty guidelines.

Anyone who would like to sponsor a bracelet or provide for the monthly battery replacement can send tax-deductible donations to Brevard County TRIAD, Inc. P.O. Box 8264, Cocoa, FL 32924-8264.

For more information, call Community Services Council’s Senior HELPLINE at 321-631-2747.