Our Interview with CEO / Founder, Gene Saunders & Project Lifesaver International
Summary: Editor for Assisted Living Directory, interviews Gene Saunders and Project Lifesaver International about thier efforts to remedy the failure in standard search and rescue operations for those seniors and individuals who ‘‘wander’ from their homes, or from structured care environments such as assisted living. Gene introduces to us their new division, PAL which stands for Protect and Locate. This division offers a high-tech device used to help track potential wanderers, and alert family members or administators when there is a problem.
New: Assisted Living Directory’s ‘Usability Test’ of PLI’s Device to Prevent Wandering (video included on this page).
Project Lifesaver Interview
Question: CEO/Founder, Gene Saunders & Project Lifesaver, thank you for taking the time to talk to me about your organization, and your new product and division PAL. I know you have been around for many years. Can you briefly, for our readers here at Assisted Living Directory, tell us what circumstances or events led to the idea for, and creation of your organization, Project Lifesaver?
Answer: “Project Lifesaver International started as a result of failure in standard search and rescue operations. I thought there has to be an easier way to find people. I received some information on radio tracking technology which is still used to track wildlife and thought; why can’t this work for humans along with a training program? After multiple visits I received a grant from a local hospital to launch a pilot program in Chesapeake, Virginia. That was when the program began. The first search took place in April of 1999 lasting less than 30 minutes states CEO/Founder, Gene Saunders of Project Lifesaver International.
Question: When I first got into this industry, almost a decade ago, I was amazed then at how many stories made the news for people, and seniors with Alzheimer’s, memory disorders and the like, who simply get lost, or disappear (a.k.a. wander) from their homes or care environments. I still see, almost daily through my google alerts, and other news sources, stories of wandering – sometimes ending up in serious injury, or even death due to exposure, injury or other circumstances. My question is, why is this such a widespread, and continuing problem, especially within managed care environments, such as assisted living, where staff are responsible for the whereabouts of their residents at all times?
Answer: “There are several factors that contribute to the fact that the life threatening behavior of wandering persist; one being costs, second, even at a care facility we know there is a large number of wandering incidents that occur that are not documented and most facilities have a program in place but no facility, as we know is 100% safety proof, that is why there needs to be layers of protection placed around those who are high risk to wander.”
Question: Traditionally, what has Project Lifesaver done to help with the problem of Wandering, or, what has your strategy been before the release of your new division and product PAL (which Ill ask about in a moment). Have you experienced a satisfactory success rate in finding wanderers?
Answer: We have a developed a comprehensive program for police, fire/rescue and other first responders which includes equipment and training to quickly locate and rescue at risk individuals with cognitive disorders who are at constant risk to the life threatening behavior of wandering including those with Alzheimer’s disease, Autism, and Down syndrome. Citizens enrolled in Project Lifesaver wear a small personal transmitter around the wrist or ankle that emits an individualized tracking signal. If an enrolled client goes missing, the caregiver notifies their local Project Lifesaver agency, and a trained emergency team responds to the wanderer’s area. 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 PLI clients average 30 minutes 95% less time than standard operations.
Question: Your New Division, and product PAL which stands for Protect and Locate? Please tell me about it, how the idea came about, and if this is now possible due to the recent advances in smartphone technology in the past few years.
Answer: Over the years PLI has tested various GPS/Cellular based tracking devices and found they were not as reliable as we required. When we found PAL we really liked the fact it included an RF component that can set “safe zone” or RF Geo-Fence that would protect the at risk individual and prevent wandering episodes. We saw this as a great addition to our Toolbox and for areas that did not have the PLI program. Since, our launch in mid-July the response has been tremendous. Needless to say our existing membership and new members have had a positive response and we have developed a working model for how “PAL” can be implemented in existing Project Lifesaver programs. We have also have a high level of interest in bring PAL into senior facilities and special needs schools because of the fact that you can monitor six PAL watches from one receiver.
Question: Do you have families and caregivers currently using PAL, and what has the feedback been?
Answer: Yes, the feedback has been positive, they like the fact that they can set the RF “Safe zone” and get alerts right away.
Question: Is PAL easy to operate for those who are not technologically inclined?
Question: I understand that PAL works with just about any smartphone. Do you need an app to use it, or just the phone. What if I dont have a smartphone, can I still use PAL?
Answer: You can monitor and track with your smartphone and with the portable receiver. Although presently there is no app for PAL that is something we are considering and it should be added in the near future.
Question: I can easily see how this would be a fantastic solution for a single person/caregiver or family. Can this device also be used in more of a group setting, such as assisted living, with multiple residents being a wandering threat? Or, to put it another way, can it be used with groups of people living within the same area, community, or home?
Answer: “Yes, absolutely this is perfect for a group setting. Six watches can be enrolled on one receiver, or if loved one goes to dinner with their family the caregiver can have a receiver and when they drop their loved one off it can connect to the receiver back at the senior facility. The device is also portable so if your going on vacation with our loved one you can bring the system there and set up the same way you would if at home or at a senior facility.
Question: If there is one thing about Project Lifesaver, and about this new division that you would want people to know over everything else, what would that be?
Answer: The fact that we are a non-profit organization and our continuous goal is to keep loved ones protected and safe and provide peace of mind to families and with the addition of “PAL” as our new division this helps show the advances in technology to help prevent a wandering incident before it occurs
Our sincere thanks go to Gene and Project Lifesaver International for spending time with us! – Assisted Living Directory
Our 2014 Usability Test of a Project Lifesaver’s PAL Device to Prevent Wandering
Assisted Living with Interview with Gene Saunders, President and CEO of Project Lifesaver International