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Project Lifesaver helps keep those with Alzheimer's and dementia safe

Bracelet allows its wearer to be found within minutes if they wander off
20180515 project lifesaver ts
Liz Kent, executive director of Victim Services Wellington, holds a Project Lifesaver bracelet used to help keep track of people who might put themselves in danger by wandering. Tony Saxon/GuelphToday

A little-known service offered in Guelph and Wellington County is going a long way to making life safer for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Project Lifesaver offers bracelets that are worn by people with a tendency to wander.

Should that person go missing, a radio frequency allows police to locate them, usually within minutes.

“It’s one of the best programs we have,” says Liz Kent, executive director of Victim Services Wellington, who administer the program.

“Since we started offering it in 2012 we’ve had 17 people go missing and we found 11 of those people in 26 minutes or less,” Kent said. “All 17 were found safe.”

People with autism and even someone who suffered short-term memory issues because of a car accident also use the bracelet, Kent said.

Debra Charron of Guelph has one on her father Roy, who has dementia.

He’s never gone missing, but it could happen at any time, Charron said.

There is also that peace of mind for the caregivers, she added.

“The first time he put the bracelet on was the first good night’s sleep I’d had in three years,” Charron said.

“It’s marvellous. Absolutely marvellous.”

The project came to Guelph after a woman went missing for 22 hours in Guelph’s north end a number of years ago. She was eventually found safe, but a police officer who worked on the search was motivated to look into options for those Alzheimer’s and dementia.

He found Project Lifesaver, an American company that was already operating in some Ontario municipalities.

Roughly 50 people in the area now use the bracelet.

It uses radio frequency rather than cellular technology because a radio frequency is reliable in all areas, Kent said.

“Basements, parkades, wooded areas …. Radio frequency works in all those places that sometimes cell phones don’t,” she said.

Police use a tracking unit to locate the bracelet.

Families lease the unit for $400 for however long they need it and pay $60 a year for a battery.

Kent said the Guelph Lions Club covers the cost for anyone that might not be able to afford it.

Kent points out that the bracelet not only helps find people, it can save thousands of dollars spent on extensive searches and helps keep emergency resources focused on other responsibilities.

More information can be found by calling Victim Services Wellington at 519-824-1212 ext. 7205.