9/5/07 Aging Persons with Alzheimer’s and Dementia: What You Should Know, Part III
For those who live in a community that does not yet have the Project Lifesaver program, the National Alzheimer’s Association has a less expensive alternative with their Safe Return program.
“Alzheimer's Association Safe Return® is a nationwide identification, support and enrollment program that provides assistance when a person with Alzheimer's or a related dementia wanders and becomes lost locally or far from home. Assistance is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If an enrollee is missing, one call immediately activates a community support network to help reunite the lost person with his or her caregiver. Safe Return faxes the enrolled person's information and photo (if provided) to local law enforcement.
When the person is found, a citizen or law official calls the 800-number on the identification products and Safe Return notifies listed contacts. The nearest Alzheimer's Association office provides information and support during the search and rescue efforts. The Safe Return program also provides assistance to those individuals who are missing and not enrolled in the program. .” said Kate Meyer, Manager, of Public Relations for the national Alzheimer's Association.
The Safe Return program averages 500 calls per month and 150 wandering incidents. Two-thirds of calls received are from law enforcement or a Good Samaritan calling to report a person FOUND and not from the caregiver calling to report the person MISSING. 99% of reported missing Safe Return enrollees are located within the first twenty-four hours and there is a 98% recover rate for those enrolled who have been reported missing.
National Association Benefits
The group offers this support for families and caregivers:
· The Alzheimer's Association toll-free, 24/7 Helpline provides reliable information, referrals and support in 140 languages. Call us anytime at 1.800.272.3900.
· From coast to coast, Alzheimer's Association local chapters are in your community, providing core services to families and professionals, including information and referral, support groups, care consultation, education and safety services.
· CareFinder™ is an online guide that can help you find the right care based on individual needs and preferences.
· The Alzheimer's Association online community connects people from all across the country who share their experiences and find support and friendship with others living with Alzheimer's.
· Alzheimer's Association advocates educate Congress on critical Alzheimer policy issues and work to increase federal funding for research and care programs.
A Local Chapter Assists
As Kate mentioned, local Alzheimer’s chapters get involved, too. Jamie Huff, Community Relations Coordinator for the Alzheimer's Alliance of Northeast Texas, is working to helping in these cases. “We take a proactive approach by helping the law enforcement entities in the counties we serve offer Project Lifesaver, a lifesaving tracking system. If family has a loved one missing that is not participating in that program we will help in any way we can.
We are trying to develop a statewide hospital notification plan in the case of missing persons unrelated to a major disaster. Having such a system in place would allow law enforcement a mass communication approach to check for unidentified patients in all Texas hospitals. That capability could help locate a missing person with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia who may have become disoriented and/or injured while lost. Currently there is no system in place for this purpose other than for major disasters and vast displacement of people, such as experienced during recent hurricanes.
We had also began talking with local Alzheimer’s Alliance volunteers in Rusk County, where Shirley Hunt from Henderson, Texas, disappeared in early June 2007, many months ago about establishing Project Lifesaver in their county. It is extremely unfortunate that the program wasn’t available to Mrs. Hunt when needed most. No one wants history to repeat itself. The City of Henderson and Rusk County are now partnering with the Alzheimer’s Alliance to raise funds and awareness of Project Lifesaver and other Alliance programs and services through our Alzheimer’s Walk in that community on October 4th, 2007. We have six additional Walks in Northeast Texas on the same date for support of the same programs. “
Tips for Caregivers
Jamie offer some very valuable tips for caregivers: “Since the rate of those with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias who wander is over 70%, it is imperative to take precautions at home. Do not leave a person with dementia unsupervised. Ensure the person is well-fed, well-hydrated and using the bathroom regularly. Some people wander in an effort to fill these needs. Set a daily routine. Reduce environmental stimuli like loud music or overcrowding that might spark wandering. Secure doors and gates in ways that make them difficult to open. Post a large sign that says “Stop” or “Do Not Enter” on exits.
Remember that at some point in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, driving performance errors or risk of wandering will present a safety risk to both the individual and the public. Driving privileges should be withheld completely when the individual poses a serious risk to self or others. To encourage acceptance, the individual should be reassured that alternate transportation will be provided as needed. When acceptance cannot be reached, it is appropriate for a clinician to order that driving be halted. It may even be necessary in some cases to disable vehicles."
Go to Part IV