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Project Lifesaver brings loved ones home

Becoming lost isn’t just distressing; it can be dangerous.

About 60 per cent of people with dementia-related memory problems become lost at some point. For many, getting lost happens without warning. Familiar surroundings may suddenly become strange to them. They get disoriented and are unable to find their way home. Half the people with dementia who go missing for 24 hours end up seriously injured, or dead.

That’s why it’s important to offer assistance when coming across someone who seems lost or confused – and for families to be prepared.

The Alzheimer Society of Hastings-Prince Edward (ASHPE) is working in partnership with local OPP and municipal police detachments to offer Project Lifesaver. It combines radio technology with trained police services to save time and most importantly, bring a loved one home safe. A wrist-transmitter worn by the participant emits a radio tracking signal that is picked up by a radio receiver. It works within a two-kilometre radius and in heavily wooded areas where GPS signals don’t exist.

A free information session and demonstration of the program Tuesday at the Wellington Community Centre featuring Lorraine Ross, education and support co-ordinator along with Troy Bellehumeur, PEC OPP Project Lifesaver Lead.

There are about a half dozen County residents who have joined Project Lifesaver and are wearing the radio transmitter bracelet. Should any go missing, the OPP can refer to a database which includes a photograph, and details about patterns and information that speeds up the process of starting a search.

Tuesday, Bellehumeur demonstrated Project Lifesaver with a mock search for Prince Edward County Detachment Commander John Hatch who was “lost” in the arena.

Within minutes, following the radio frequency’s beep, Hatch was located in an elevator.

Morgan Haviland, fund co-ordinator for the local Alzheimer Society, said the society manages the program and the OPP handles the search when a call is made. Throughout the province, officers have made more than 2,500 successful searches.

Constable Scott Gannon, canine officer with East Region, also demonstration how search an rescue dogs assist with tracking and locating people.

In 2011 it was reported that 15 per cent of Canadians aged 65 years and older were living with Alzheimer disease and other dementias.

60% of those individuals will wander away from home at least once

50% of those not found within 24 hours are at risk of serious injury or even death

Know the signs
The person may be:
– Inappropriately dressed for the weather
– Standing still looking around for a long period of time
– Pacing
– Looking confused or disoriented
– Repeating the same question or statement within a short period of time

Know what to say
– Speak slowly and calmly
– Loudness can convey anger; avoid the assumption that the person is hearing impaired
– Use short, simple words
– Ask “yes” and “no” questions
– Ask one question at a time, allowing plenty of time for response. If necessary, repeat the same question using the exact wording
– People with dementia may only understand a part of the question at a time

Know what to do
– Approach the person from the front
– Identify yourself and explain why you’ve approached the person
– Maintain a calm environment
– Move slowly; maintain eye contact
– Avoid confrontation
– Avoid correcting or “reality checks”
– Call police (911) for help returning the person home safely
– Wait with the person until the police arrive

Sharing the successes of Project Lifesaver were Maureen Corrigan, Alzheimer Society Executive Director, Angela Meraw, Operations and Program Support Coordinator, Morgan Haviland, Fund Development, Patrick Menard, PEC Community Policing Officer, Lorraine Ross, Education and Support Coordinator and Bottom Troy Bellehumeur, Project Lifesaver Lead with Scott Gannon, Canine Office with Bullet.

Call the local Alzheimer Society office at 613-476-2085 for details on this and other programs available.


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