How many times have we seen in the news a story about someone's grandfather or dad that has gone missing for days?
Recently, the headlines featured the story about a well known celebrity with whom a lot of us grew up with. Casey Kasem who suffers from Lewy Body Dementia, a much more severe form of a closely related Parkinson's syndrome resulting in pronounced dementia. Subsequently, he had gone missing YET AGAIN (Note: since the time this article was published, sadly, Mr. Kasem has passed away).
I thought surely someone needs to do something to prevent this poor man and others like himself from suffering the devastation of wandering about lost and confused as well as preventing the anguish and trauma the family feels every time this happens.
Unfortunately, with over 1 million individuals suffering Parkinson's disease half of which develop dementia at some point in their illness plus 5 million more with Alzheimer's disease (these two illnesses alone comprise the two most common neurological diseases), this scenario is not a unique one to Mr. Kasem. People with dementia get lost and wander off their homes, nursing homes, skill nursing facilities, and assisted living on a daily basis.
Fortunately, most are returned unharmed but this may not always be the case. The time it takes to retrieve these individuals along with the man power to accomplish such task can be equally expansive.
Dementia patients are like children if "locked up" or restricted, they will try to find a way to escape! I know. I was a notorious escape artist as a toddler. My mother would put me "to bed" and the next thing she knew I was outside playing having snuck out through a window or a tiny crevice. Every time I see a patient trying to walk out of the ward, I smile to myself and think I bet I know what they are thinking when they see me coming towards the locked doors -FREEDOM!
So, they start walking faster than me to get there first so when I push the button to open the door they can bolt out like the horses out of their stall as the bell rings to start the race.
But, sensing what's about to happen as I approach the door from all my years of experience, instead I make conversation with the nice lady as I grab her by the arm and ask her to join me for a walk back into a more secured area.
The nurse then tells me, she is a "runner." "I know!" I said. "I can tell." She just smiles at me knowingly and points me out in another more discreet path but before I leave I tell her that this does not have to be so.
Patients can have freedom while family and staff can have peace of mind and prevent activating so many Silver alerts by the use of tracking devices like the bracelets provided by the Life Saver Project designed for dementia patients. It is easy to use and install and nearly impossible for patients to remove batteries. Most importantly the majority of states have this capacity.
The transmitters which are placed in a form of a bracelet will be placed only at the request of a legal responsible party. Caregivers are provided with instructions and emergency phone numbers. Caregivers are then provided testers and instructions as to their use and procedures to test transmitter daily and monthly sheets to record any rescues.
The way you enroll a loved one in Life Saver Project is first via a 1) any local agencies in the patients area that provide these services. For instances, in many areas these services are provided by the International Pilot Club -in my area in Nacogdoches, Texas if you wished to obtain more information you would call the International Pilot Club of Nacogdoches and an application would be mailed to you then a member of the International Pilot Club like myself could come out talk to the family and provide instructions as well as do testing and make sure patient or loved one meets all criteria. Otherwise you 2) could visit the Life project webpage at www.projectlifesaver.org and look at "Where We are Page" to see where the nearest office to you is located that can provide you with the appropriate materials and do set up.
However, if you or your loved one happen to live outside an area where a life saver project area or division exists, you can still obtain these services through a new division of life project called PAL (protect and Locate) for more information you can see Assisted Living Directory's interview with Chief Saunders, and learn more about Project Lifesaver here:
(video will open in a new YouTube window)
it will usually run anywhere from $65 to 95 to install along with a $10 -25 monthly fee depending where you live and the resources of the international pilot club that provides the materials and installation. This in my opinion is well worth the money for a little piece of mind and loved ones safety. So, before dad or grandpa becomes a flight risk think about investing on one of these tracking devices, you may very well be saving a life!
Copyright © 2014
by Maria De Leon
Article by Dr. Maria De Leon, MD exclusively for Assisted Living Directory
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