An Alzheimer’s patient wandered out of his home at night this past September and was found in a ditch just yards from Bayou Texar. What likely saved him was a transmitter he wore through an international program called Project Lifesaver, offered locally by Covenant Alzheimer’s Services.
Thanks to a $102,500 IMPACT 100 grant, the program is expanding beyond Alzheimer’s patients.
“They could wander at any point during the disease, and we’re expanding this to help people who don’t specifically have Alzheimer’s,” says Audrey Wippler, executive director of CAS. “It could be any type of dementia or some type of brain injury, any illness that puts them at risk.”
CAS has purchased 50 more transmitters, bringing its total to 75. The additional transmitters will benefit more than 150 people over the course of the transmitters’ warranty, an expansion that wouldn’t be possible without the grant, Wippler said.
Each transmitter has a unique radio frequency number that would be used by Escambia County Search and Rescue or the Escambia or Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office to locate a patient.
The transmitter is waterproof and attaches to a vinyl, watch-like band patients wear around the clock.
“It is 100 percent successful when it’s used correctly,” Wippler says. “The technology is very good.”
CAS, formerly Alzheimer’s Family Services, implemented Project lifesaver in 2002. They have been in the community for more than 30 years educating and providing support for caregivers of Alzheimer’s or dementia patients.
The grant also will cover the monitoring fees of the transmitters for two years and help launch a public awareness campaign in early 2015 to let the community know this type of service is available.
“A lot of caregivers don’t know the resources that are available for them,” Wippler says.
CAS will visit the patient every month to change the battery and make sure the transmitter is working properly, a visit that sometimes benefits more than just the patient.
“It also gives the caregivers a chance to interact with someone other than their patients,” Wippler says. “Sometimes we’re the only people that they see that month, and we’re able to go in there and see if there’s anything else that we might be able to help with and just be that companion service.”