New project a lifesaver
June 07, 2008

 

 

Project Life Saver

SARBC chief of operartions Ken Snider shows off the equipment used for tracking down patients who have wandered off and become lost.

Kira Curtis/News staff

Search and Rescue B.C. along with a handful of local organizations, are helping launch B.C.'s first Project Life Saver program that is designed to locate persons who may wander off frequently due to Alzheimer's , autism, dementia or other similar illnesses.

The project is only in its first stages of use in Victoria but is already used in nearly 600 communities in the U.S. and a small number of communities in Ontario.

The program uses a small transmitter, about the size of a watch, that is attached around the wrist or ankle of the patient. This transmitter sets off a beacon and can be located as soon as the patient is noticed missing.

Since the system was first put into action in 1999, more than 1,600 searches have been preformed with a 100 per cent success rate and an average finding time of 30 minutes.

We Rage, We Weep Alzheimer Foundation is one of the local organizations putting its effort into the project and the main group organizing the information and registration of patients.

"Not only does it help give peace of mind to the caregiver, but it helps all the rescuers," said Dr. Marjorie Moulton, Alzheimer Foundation's executive director.

Though Moulton is with the Alzheimer Foundation, she says that this program is important for many groups of individuals that live with conditions like Alzheimer's, Down's syndrome or brain injuries.

People who are prone to wandering off, and may not always be able to find their way home.

"They don't always live in the same head space as you or me," Moulton said explaining that 59 per cent of people with dementia have a tendency to wander off. They often forget what year or town they are in and are drawn to things or houses they might relate to when they were young.

The patients will be registered through the Alzheimer Foundation and the Commissionaires and SARBC is working closely to help maintain and educate patients, families and caregivers.

The Commissionaires are responsible for the monthly maintenance on the equipment and will make home visits to check up and answer any questions. SARBC volunteers are trained and ready with equipment to track down patients.

Ken Snider, chief of operations with SARBC, says the program is a "brilliant concept" and a worthwhile cause, but says it's unfortunate it took so long to get to Western Canada.

"The technologies are old," Snider said explaining that these tracking devices have been used on animals for years and have been made in Victoria for nearly a decade, "It's sad they haven't come (to Victoria until now)."

Snider is already training his volunteers on using the detectors and equipment, and on successful ways of approaching lost patients with out scaring them. But so far there are no fully registered patients in the program.

Moulton is working hard on getting the programs information out to groups and organizations that work with people that could use a tracking system like this.

She is even raising money for people who can not afford to buy the tracking device, and just received a $5,000 donation from the Rotary Club of Victoria.

For Moulton, the program is really just to give a secure piece of mind to those who care for people with these disabilities.

"It can mean the difference between permanent care, and keeping them at home a little longer." Moulton said.

"If you have someone, a loved one who needs this, please give us a call."

For questions contact the We Rage, We Weep foundation at www.werageweweep.com or for more information on Project Life Saver visit www.projectlifesaver.org or www.sarbc.ca.

editor@vicnews.com

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