By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — An incident that occurred Tuesday demonstrated the value of a program offered by the Alzheimer’s Association of Northeastern New York, two people involved said.
On Tuesday, an 86-year-old man with Alzheimer’s wandered away from his home. Otsego County 911 received a call reporting him missing at 3:15 p.m. When emergency services personnel arrived at 3:42 p.m. the man was found, safe, about 10 minutes later near his home thanks to a personal transmitter provided by the Otsego County Project Lifesaver, according to a media release.
The service is available in Otsego, Delaware and Schoharie Counties for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s. It’s also available for children with autism.
The system is important because it’s impossible for care providers to be with a client 24 hours a day, program manager Ann Marie Thayer said. Clients can wander off in a matter of minutes, she said.
Thayer said she was glad that this first use of a transmitter to locate one of the approximately 15 clients in the county was successful. It was a tremendous time savings for emergency services personnel, she said.
The waterproof and weatherproof transmitter is worn around the wrist or ankle. When he went missing, the caregiver notified emergency services and a team responded.
Emergency Services Coordinator Kevin Ritton said after the man — whose name was not released for privacy reasons — wandered away from home, just six people from three agencies were able to quickly locate him. The man was recommended for the program in June 2012, when he wandered off and 60 people from eight agencies had to search for four hours to find him.
“It was a tremendous time-saver,” Ritton said, which is important because being outside for an extended period of time could be dangerous.
The program began after Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, secured a state public-health grant in 2005. It allowed the Alzheimer’s Association to form the program with the Otsego County Sheriff’s Office, the Office for the Aging and the Otsego County Office of Emergency Services. The service’s lifetime cost is $300, and scholarships are available for those who need assistance.
Thayer said after a client profile is completed, a picture is taken and an agreement that needs to be notarized is made. The agreement is forwarded to the Office of Emergency Services, where Ritton assigns a radio frequency. Ritton then goes on a monthly visit to change the batteries on the bracelet and get to know the client.
Thayer said once the program was successful in Otsego County, it was expanded to help others.
Anyone wanting more information can call Thayer at the Leatherstocking office at 547-1650.