Project Lifesaver

Dangers of Alzheimer's Disease
It is reported that there are over 4 ½ million Americans with Alzheimer's disease, and half of these are in the wandering stages. Alzheimer's disease affects the short-term memory. Symptoms usually involve forgetfulness, difficulty with abstract thinking, disorientation, personality changes, and loss of judgment. Patients begin to not recognize family and friends, and tend to live in the past. Project lifesaver also serves patients with Autism, Down's Syndrome, and Prader-Willi Syndrome. We have one patient who has seizures, and does not remember her actions during her seizures.

When a patient reaches the wandering stage, that of walking off from home and being unable to return, it can be a very dangerous situation and it represents a critical emergency. The patient is at the mercy of the elements, be it cold, hot, dehydration, or failure to take necessary medications.

About Project Lifesaver
Project Lifesaver is a program developed in 1999 by the 43rd Virginia Search and Rescue in Chesapeake, Virginia. Utilizing tracking equipment, Project Lifesaver now has the ability to track patients that walk away from their home. The patient is fitted with a transmitter no bigger than a watch and band, which is worn on the wrist or ankle. The frequency is recorded by the attending agency, along with other pertinent information about the patient. Should the patient walk away, the Care Giver notifies the agency and a search is begun immediately using a tracking receiver. The signal from the transmitter can be picked up by ground and air patrol units and the patient located quickly. Search times that have normally been as long as days can now be reduced to less than an hour.

The St. Clair County Sheriff's Office has been a part of the Project Lifesaver program since 2002. In the summer of 2002, the St. Clair County Sheriff's Office had an elderly female walk away from her residence. The search took 12 hours, and the female was found very tired but uninjured. After this incident Sheriff Terry Surles contacted Projected Lifesaver. Sergeant Dale Phillips who is employed by the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office and is also the State of Alabama Coordinator for Project Lifesaver came to our county and trained our agency on the Project Lifesaver system. At that time Sheriff Surles purchased the necessary equipment and came on board with Project Lifesaver.

Anyone who has a friend or relative with Alzheimer's disease, Autism, or Down's syndrome (where a patient might be prone to wander away) who is interested in the Project Lifesaver program can contact the St. Clair County Sheriff's Office at 205-594-2140, or 205-884-6840. Project Lifesaver program coordinator for the St. Clair County Sheriff's Office is Sergeant Greg Walker, who can be reached by phone at 205-594-2505 or by email. Also more information can be obtained online at http://www.projectlifesaver.org/. By becoming an online Project Lifesaver member and creating a user name and password you can find other agencies that are part of Project Lifesaver anywhere in the country. Agencies who are interested in starting Project lifesaver in their communities should contact Project Lifesaver, Inc. at 757-432-4382.