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Finding Those with Cognitive Conditions Who Wander - Project Lifesaver International

  • Published: 2010-11-18 : Author: Project Lifesaver International
  • Synopsis: Effectiveness of technology in helping find those with cognitive conditions like alzheimers autism and down syndrome who wander.

Main Document

Project Lifesaver International Helps Save Lives - Recent Rescues Demonstrate Effectiveness of Radio Frequency Technology in Helping Find Those with Cognitive Conditions Who Wander, including those with Alzheimer's disease, Autism, & Down Syndrome.

Radio frequency technology is credited with helping save lives for individuals enrolled in the Project Lifesaver program.

Experts estimate that over 5 million people have Alzheimer's disease, and the numbers are expected to multiply in the years to come. Nearly 60% of people with Alzheimer's will wander at some point during the progression of the disease, and many will wander repeatedly. Additionally, children with autism and Down syndrome also have a tendency to wander, and in a recent National Autism Association survey, nearly 92% of parents felt their autistic child was at risk of wandering away and becoming lost.

Individuals with a medical tendency to wander, including those with Alzheimer's disease, autism, Down syndrome, and other cognitive conditions, who are enrolled in Project Lifesaver, wear a small transmitter around the wrist or ankle that emits a tracking signal. If the individual goes missing, the caregiver notifies their local Project Lifesaver agency, and a trained emergency team responds.

On November 7, 2010, an 18-year old boy with Down syndrome wandered from his home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. According to reports, this area is highly populated, with a large river flowing two miles from the boy's last seen location. Project Lifesaver units responded and a helicopter unit was dispatched in the air. Officers were getting faint signals intermittently from the radio frequency tracking equipment, and after the hits, ground units were dispatched to various places where the signals were heard. The client was found a short time later, entangled in roots and vines about halfway down a 40-foot high riverbank cliff. Officers were able to climb up the riverbank and safely rescue the boy, who was then transported to the hospital for observation and released the following day in good condition. Authorities believe, had the boy not been wearing a Project Lifesaver bracelet, he may not have been found in time.

Additionally, the Norfolk Sheriff's office in Norfolk, Virginia recently had three Project Lifesaver searches occur in the same evening. According to the release from Norfolk, on November 10, 2010, a 69-year old male with Alzheimer's disease wandered from home. The immediate area was searched and officers received a signal from the man's Project Lifesaver bracelet. He was located walking along a city street and was returned home in good condition. While searching for this first client, the Project Lifesaver coordinator then received word that a 67-year old woman with Alzheimer's had been missing for 7 1/2 hours. The Norfolk Emergency Operations Center found that the woman was checked into a Community Mental Health center a short time earlier that evening, and as personnel were being cleared from the second call, another page came in regarding a 62-year old missing, mentally handicapped man. A signal was picked up at a 7-11 as units were canvassing the area, and he was found inside enjoying a cup of coffee and engaging in conversation with other customers. The man was returned to his assisted living facility in good condition. This was the 45th Project Lifesaver call for Norfolk in 2010, with all missing persons found in good condition and returned home safely.

"It is critical for communities to have a pro-active program in place like Project Lifesaver to help find those who go missing and cannot find their way home. There is no better feeling than locating someone who has become lost, and reuniting them safely with their family. That is what this program is all about - saving lives," said Gene Saunders, Chief Executive Officer of Project Lifesaver International.

To date, Project Lifesaver agencies have rescued over 2,200 people, in an average time of 30 minutes, with no serious injuries or fatalities ever reported.

About Project Lifesaver International -Established in 1999, Project Lifesaver International is a non-profit organization that is committed to helping families quickly find their loved ones who wander because of Alzheimer's, Down syndrome, dementia, autism, and other cognitive conditions. Project Lifesaver trains agencies on search and rescue techniques and equipment, as well as how to interact with individuals once they are found to help facilitate a safe escort home. Project Lifesaver is also endorsed by many leading organizations in the country, including the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, National Autism Association, National Sheriff's Association, and additional organizations. For more information, visit


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