Families who are dealing with a loved one who has dementia are often concerned that their loved one could get lost.  Individuals with dementia can become easily confused when they are out on their own.  A wrong turn while driving, or even walking, can lead to unfamiliar surroundings very quickly.

There are some existing methods to try and locate a missing person.  Tracking systems can be loaded onto cell phones, or vehicles can be tracked with GPS devices that attach to the car battery.   However, there is also a program called Project Lifesaver that relies on radio technology and specially trained search and rescue teams.

Project Lifesaver International is a non-profit organization, formed for the purpose of locating missing persons who have a qualifying medical condition, such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, epilepsy, autism, Down Syndrome or other cognitive disorders.  Participants in the program must have the potential to wander, are no longer driving, and are currently being cared for in a home setting.

Those who qualify will be fitted with a wrist or ankle recovery transponder.  This is a battery-operated radio transmitter that emits an automatic tracking signal every second, 24 hours per day.   The signal is tracked on the ground or over the air for several miles.   Each bracelet has a unique frequency so the search team can locate and identify the person who has wandered away from home.

Each county in Pennsylvania can choose to participate in the Project Lifesaver program.   The Lycoming County United Way is currently the community partner of Project Lifesaver.   Local personnel are trained on the use of the technology and special search and rescue equipment along with communication strategies for those with disabilities.   You can find the local partner in your community by visiting the Project Lifesaver’s website at www.projectlifesaver.org.

The ability to respond in a timely manner can help save the life of someone who tends to wander.   Recovery times for those that participate tend to be less than 30 minutes.  If you are interested in the program, reach out to your local partner with Project Lifesaver to learn if your loved one would qualify to participate.

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