Project Lifesaver: Working for adults with cognitive impairment
It has been found that 60-70 percent of those with Alzheimer’s or dementia will wander at least once over the course of their illness, with many wandering or getting lost 6-8 times before they are placed in a residential facility.
Anyone who is mobile and has memory problems is at risk of wandering or getting lost, even in the early stages of the disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association some signs to watch for include:
- Returning from a regular walk or drive later than usual
- Attempting to fulfill past obligations, such as going to work
- Difficulty locating familiar places
- Asks the whereabouts of current or past family and friends
- Acts as if doing a hobby or chore without actually completing the task (i.e. moving pots and dirt but not planting anything)
If you recognize any of the above signs or know that a friend or family member has a tendency to get lost or wander, there are technologies available to help.
Constable Yvette Logan, Elder Abuse Coordinator of the Family Violence Unit, with Peel Regional Police has been working with Project Lifesaver for 8 years.
“This program offers patients a device that they wear around their wrists and emits a radio frequency. If the person is reported missing, locator devices are retrieved from the local police division and activated,” says Cst. Logan.
As with any system, there are pros and cons. Cst. Logan highlights that while this tracking system only works within a 1.6-kilometer range of the wristband, it has been successful in helping them track many individuals who have wandered.
“The way the system works is that we pick up on a chirping sound to let us know that we are in range of the lost person. The louder the chirp, the closer officers are to the person. This is important because it can be quite difficult to find people based on description alone. They may be wearing a hat, have a hood up over their head that covers their face, or it could be raining and an umbrella is covering them,” adds Cst. Logan.
While the radio frequency transmitter is older technology, there are still many benefits when compared with GPS tracking. For starters, it can be used indoors, and many people get lost in malls and underground parking lots. It is also waterproof so will still work if it gets wet.
Cst. Logan reminds us that other key factors to consider are cost and usability, “Project Lifesaver is cost effective. It is $300 to purchase the bracelet and then $10 per month for the battery, which needs to be changed on a monthly basis. That is the only maintenance for caregivers with this project.”
GPS on the other hand needs to be charged every 24-48 hours and is monitored by the users themselves which may be difficult for older caregivers. However, Cst. Logan is quick to mention that, “GPS is an excellent device that may be better equipped for some people or families, but we feel Project Lifesaver is an important option for those who cannot afford or cannot operate GPS systems.”
So how does one sign up for a program like this? Cst. Logan says that in most cases it is the family, the caregiver or a friend who signs them up; and it is important that the person lives with someone else. This is because Project Lifesaver would not be effective if there was no one to call and report a person missing.
You can learn more about this amazing program run through Peel Region by contacting Erica Opoku at 905-791-7800 ext. 5936 or by clicking here. To find similar programs in other areas, contact your local police station or do an online search for the Vulnerable Persons Registry in your region.
Written by Christine Tompa for Amintro, the social app designed exclusively for those 50 plus looking to create new friendships, find new opportunities and live life to its fullest. Pre-register and be notified the moment Amintro launches.