Posted on June 1, 2011
When someone with a cognitive disability, whether Alzheimer's, autism, Down syndrome, or dementia, is at risk of wandering away from home or a care facility, they are at an immediate safety risk. Now, the means to locate them quickly is available in Richland County. Thanks to the efforts of the Richland County Lions Clubs, a Lioness Club, the Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging, the Richland County Sheriff's Department and the Northwest Ohio Alzheimer's Association, a grant was provided for the groups to launch Project Lifesaver locally. Project Lifesaver International provides in-depth training on the use of specialized electronic technology as well as teaching rescuers how to communicate with people afflicted with cognitive conditions. Project Lifesaver was brought to the attention of local Lions Clubs in 2005. "What fired me up," states Madison Lion and committee chairman Gene Berrier, "was when a woman in Ashland walked away from home and was gone 48 hours. It [Project Lifesaver] is something we need in this area." Participating Lions Clubs include: Bellville, Butler, Butler Lioness, Madison, Lucas Mansfield Noon, Mansfield Evening, Ontario and Plymouth.
According to research by the Ohio Area Agency on Aging, 70 percent of Alzheimers or dementia patients tend to wander. In Richland County that means 1,687 diagnosed individuals (according to the local patient population) are at risk. Additionally, 95 percent of autistic children are at risk of wandering and there are 286 known cases of autism in Richland County. That means 272 autistic Richland County residents are at risk of wandering.
Rich Eichinger of the Richland County Sheriff's Department notes, "If someone wanders away, in a 48 hour period it can cost search and rescue a minimum of $10,000 in staff and equipment." Project Lifesaver can not only save money for Richland County, it can save lives and these organizations are pleased to be able to bring it to our area.
Patients wear a battery-operated FM band transmitter on their wrist or ankle. If the individual goes missing, the care giver notifies the Richland County Sheriff's Department, and a trained emergency team responds. Most who wander are found within a few miles from home, and search times have been reduced from hours and days to minutes. Recovery times for Lifesaver clients average 30 minutes. Currently two clients are now wearing this lifesaving device, and the Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging and the Northwest Ohio Alzheimer's Association are screening potential recipients. A client must have a 24 hour care giver, and the cost is $300 which includes 12 bands, a wristband, and 12 batteries. The agency purchased three kits to provide to the first three local clients. Potential clients should contact the agency at 1-800-522-5680 ext. 2000 for more information or to inquire about available sponsorship.
The Richland County Sheriff Department was awarded the equipment through a grant that was applied for through Project Lifesaver. However, to be able to provide additional equipment and to help sponsors clients who can benefit from the program, donations would be welcome. Donations could be made by contacting Lion Ray Kasper at (419) 529-8924. Donations are tax exempt under this 501C3 program. About Project Lifesaver International Established in 1999, Project Lifesaver International (PLI) is a non-profit organization that is committed to helping families quickly find their loved ones who wander because of Alzheimer's, Down syndrome, dementia, and autism. Headquartered in Chesapeake, Va., Project Lifesaver works with local law enforcement agencies in more than 1,000 communities in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Canada to protect some of society's most vulnerable citizens. PLI provides training and support to all agencies and continues to work with organizations on education and awareness regarding the issue of wandering. Visit www.projectlifesaver.org.