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Article Archive >> Senior Life

Memory Matters: Alzheimer's Association, Greater Maryland Chapter

Memory Matters: Alzheimer's Association, Greater Maryland Chapter

One of the core services of the Alzheimer's Association is the nation Safe Return (tm) program. Alzheimer's disease causes millions of Americans to lose their ability to recognize familiar places and faces. Many people cannot even remember their name or address. They may become disoriented and lost in their neighborhood or when they are far away from home. To combat this effect of Alzheimer's disease, the National Alzheimer's Association founded the Safe Return(tm) program.
On April 13, 2005, the Alzheimer's Association Safe Return(tm) program marked its 12h Anniversary. This nationwide identification, support, and enrollment program works at the community level. Safe Return(tm) provides assistance whether a person is lost or found either locally or far from home.
Once an enrollee is recognized as missing, Alzheimer's Association Safe Return(tm) faxes the person's information and photo to the local law enforcement agency. Also, if an enrollee is found by either a citizen or law enforcement official, they can call the 800-number on the identification products. Safe Return then accesses the enrollees' information and notifies the listed contacts. In addition to the national approach, the local Alzheimer's Association office also provides information and support to the family of the lost loved one.
Locally, two wandering cases illustrate the program's success. "Rita", a woman with Alzheimer's disease, drove four hours from Delaware into our community. A local nurse recognized Rita's erratic driving and contacted the local law enforcement officials. The officer, familiar with the Safe Return program, called the number on the Safe Return(tm) bracelet and Rita was quickly and safely returned to her family. Just like Rita's story, "Karl's" too has a happy ending. Karl's son, "Michael", seat-belted his father in the car, then ran back into the house to let the dog out. By the time Michael returned to the car, Karl was missing. Before Michael had time to panic, his cell phone rang. On the other end was the Safe Return(tm) office. A new neighbor, unfamiliar with Karl's disease, had found Karl and called the number on Karl's Safe Return bracelet. The pair was quickly reunited.
Over the past 12 years more than 130,000 people have enrolled in the Safe Return(tm) program and their caregivers have rested easier knowing that this vital and important program is there for them twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, three-hundred and sixty-five days a year. Best of all during this time period more than 10,000 enrollees were rescued and safely returned to their homes.
To help ensure a wanders' safe return home, thousands of law enforcement and emergency responders have been educated about wandering, Safe Return and other safety issues. Locally, law enforcement officers are educated annually about the Safe Return program and how to recognize a person who has a dementia type illness or Alzheimer's disease.
Enrollment is easy and inexpensive. A simple form is completed and submitted along with a picture of the enrollee. The one time fee for enrollment is $40. The enrollee receives an identification bracelet or necklace and iron-ion clothing labels. For an additional $5, the caregiver receives jewelry that alerts that a person with Alzheimer's disease needs care others in the case of an emergency. For those who can not afford the one time fee, grants may be available through the local office.

The Alzheimer's Association is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization. The Association enhances care and support for people with Alzheimer's disease, their families, and caregivers and encourages support for research. Local office: 5 Public Square, Ste. 307, Hagerstown, MD, 301.797.4892; fax, 301.797.0150; email, Joyce.Heptner@alz.org, www.alzgmd.org.

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