23 Aug 2014
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Free Tracking Device for Westchester Seniors

Project LifeSaver used a radio-frequency device to locate seniors with dementia who may have gotten lost.

Free Tracking Device for Westchester Seniors

Another tool to help relieve some of the concerns of taking care of a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer's is available free to Westchester County residents.

Enrollment for Project LifeSaver, which uses a tracking device to help find seniors who wander away from their homes, will take place in northern Westchester during the month of February.

Pearl Hacker, the director of Ludington Adult Day Services at Sound Shore Medical Center in New Rochelle, said if she had an elderly relative who had dementia she would want them to wear one of the devices.

"It's priceless," she said. "If you never use it, that's fine. It could be that one time and then what do you do?"

Caregivers can sign up their loved ones for the service from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m Feb. 11 at the Yorktown Senior Center, 1974 Commerce St., and from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Feb. 15  at the Margeliz Center in Somers, 334 Route 202.

To sign up, contact Crystal Johnson ElderServe, which administers the program, at 914-365-1983 or cjohnson@hebrewhome.org.

Registration is preferred, but walk-ins will be accommodated. Caregivers who cannot make it to either date can contact Johnson to make an appointment for an alternate date.

Hacker explained that the tracking device looks sort of like a watch attached to a band, not unlike the one patients in hospitals wear for identification purposes. She said it is usually placed on the elder's dominant hand, making it harder to remove. It can also be put around a person's ankle.

"People with dementia and Alzheimer's have a tendency to wander," Hacker said, "and can't remember where they are and where they live. They wouldn't be able to tell anyone where they live."

When a caregiver discovers a missing person, he or she call 9-1-1 and gives the operator the frequency number of the bracelet which the police use to find the person.

Hacker said before the devices became available it could take days to find a person with dementia who became lost.

"This saves a lot of police work and a lot of tying up of emergency rooms" when the lost senior is brought in for treatment, she said.

The battery for the device can be changed at Sound Shore Medical Center, Hacker said, adding the hospital is one of several places around the county where caregivers can get new batteries.

According to the county,  since Project LifeSaver began in 2008, Westchester police officers have found 10 seniors who wandered away and returned them safely to their homes.

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