When a person with Alzheimer's or another dementia related disease wanders off and they are not found in a 24-hour period, there is a 48-percent chance they will become a fatality.
I just recently had the opportunity to instruct seven dementia-care seminars with Jerry Fisher of the Alzheimer's Association Florida Gulf Coast Chapter at Brooksville regional Hospital. This was all part of the preparation of the Dementia Hospital Wristband Project I founded.
Before the training got started I reached out to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office and invited them to attend the training classes. I have to say I was completely impressed with the deputies and detectives who attended. They were taking notes, asking all the right questions and many times were the last ones to leave the room.
However, this also gave me the opportunity to hear some of the horror stories these guys have experienced when it comes to wandering and dealing with dementia behavior issues.
One of the common problems they referred to was not being able to identify a person who was obvious suffering from dementia and lost. If they have no identification on them, which seemed to happen more often than not, they may be stuck waiting for someone to report this person missing. And this is actually a good scenario because at least they were found alive!
This is why I am encouraging all caregivers and family members to register your loved one in the Safe Return program.
The Alzheimer's Association has partnered with MedicAlert to create the Safe Return program. It is a 24-hour emergency response service.
If you find your loved one missing, you would first call 911 and then the 1-800 number of Safe Return and report it to them as well.
The service provides a stainless steel bracelet, which has a standard medical alert symbol on the front and an engraved serial number on the back, that is custom fitted to their wrist. That number is the key to your entire loved one's information, including a photo ID that is shared with local law enforcement agencies.
Unfortunately, there is a fee for this service, and I understand that many families are struggling to come up with the money for their medications, but this could be lifesaving.
If your loved one has ever wandered off before you need to be more concerned because wandered are repeat offenders. And if they have never wandered, you need to keep in mind that doesn't mean it won't happen tomorrow.
The initial cost of the program is $54.90 and that includes shipping, then there is a $30 annual renewal fee. To get the program started or find out more information, call (888) 572-8566
They have another program called Comfort Zone that works more like a GPS. However, those fees are much greater, if you can afford it. I highly would recommend it, but if not the Safe Return program is a great start.
Gary Joseph LeBlanc was the primary caregiver of his father for a decade after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His newly released book, "Managing Alzheimer's and Dementia Behaviors," and "While I Still Can" and the expanded edition of "Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfullness," can be found at www.common sensecaregiving.com.