People who have a friend or loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dimentia may be reluctant to enroll them in the Safe Return program sponsored by the National Alzheimer’s Foundation. Over half the patients diagnosed with the disease will wonder away from home at one time or another. Such wanderings can happen to patients who have even the best of caretakers, but a program exists to help ensure the safe return of someone suffering from dementia. Other participants, especially in the early stage may be reluctant to enroll because it identifies them as someone suffering from Alzheimer’s, fearing the stigma attached to various forms of mental illness.
Patients enrolled in Safe Return receive a bracelet and a necklace that lets anyone who may happen upon the wonderer know that they are suffering from some form of dementia. If the caretaker alerts the call center that their loved one missing, the call centers will alert local police and civic watch dog groups to the fact and circulate their pictures and description. According to the Orange Country Director of the Safe Return program about 40,000 people in the county suffer from the illness, but less than 3,000 people participate.
Another good reason to enroll people with declined mental capacity is for emergency preparedness. Over half of the deaths in Katrina occurred to people over the age of 65, and almost 64% of the people reported missing fell into that age demographic. Initial enrollment in the Safe Return program costs $40 and a kit with the id, bracelets mentioned above are issued. To maintain the call centers, people enrolled in the program pay an additional $20/year afterwards, although scholarships are available to people who do not have the resources.
You can find out more about the program by going to the National Alzheimer’s Foundation website. You can further reduce the chances that the patient might wonder by setting up a routine around the house, involving the person in exercise and activities, and making sure your friends and neighbors are kept informed. Should the patient get lost, you should keep a recent photo on file, have a list of medications, and retain some unwashed clothes that contain their scent for the police. Knowing places where they used to live and might wonder to if the person suffering from dementia decides to go for a stroll can give authorities an idea of where to look should the Alzheimer’s patient become lost.
“Safe Retrun Works. Jane g. Haas. The Daily Item. Tuesday, July 24, 2007