"Project Lifesaver" helps caretakers and sheriff's deputies track missing patients with a bugged bracelet and a strange looking antenna.
A beeping sound is guiding deputy Laurel Allie through the woods off Miccosukee Road. She's searching for an Alzheimer's patient who has wandered away. It's really County Commissioner Tony Grippa, and the pair is showing off a potentially lifesaving tool that keeps tabs on Alzheimer’s patients.
Catherine Yoshikawa of the Tallahassee Alzheimer's Project says, "Right now in Leon County there's an estimated 3,500 people with Alzheimer's disease and 70 percent of them will wander. Seventy five percent of them will be chronic wanderers."
Priscilla Hawkins, whose mother has Alzheimer's, says, "A couple of times we had to get calls from people who found her wandering on main highways."
Priscilla Hawkins' 67-year-old mother Elmarie is among the first Alzheimer's patients in Tallahassee to be outfitted with a wrist transmitter.
Priscilla says, "This will help us to know that within half an hour we'll be able to have her back with us. It won't be a difficult decision to give a call to 911 and say, 'we need you to track.’ "
Deputies say they can pick up a signal as far as five miles away, twice that far if tracking by helicopter. With a cost of $276 per bracelet, it's pricey, but those who care for Alzheimer's patients say the peace of mind it offers is priceless.
In Leon County, caretakers can get one of those wrist transmitters for free thanks to the Pilot Club and the Tallahassee Alzheimer's Project. If you want to know more, call the Alzheimer's Project at 850-386-2778.
The Pilot Club has purchased the first 25 transmitters and is hopeful donations will allow them to buy many more so they can continue to offer them for free.