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Church support helps deputies track dementia patients

 


Church support helps deputies track dementia patients

March 29, 2005

A UMNS Feature
By Lindsay Ferrier*

Waving an oversized antenna as he roams the streets of downtown Coshocton, Ohio, Sheriff’s Deputy Wes Wallace is attracting plenty of attention.

“We’re getting a better signal from that way,” he mutters, undeterred by the stares of curious onlookers.

As his antenna device beeps louder, he makes his way to the county courthouse. 

“There’s our subject,” he says, pointing his antenna at a man standing on the steps who wears a wristband transmitter. 

Wallace is showing off the Coshocton County Sheriff’s Office’s newest gadget, a device that can track down anyone wearing a transmitter bracelet. The bracelets will be worn by residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, so that deputies can quickly find them if they stray from home. 

Coshocton County Sheriff’s Capt. Jon Mosier has high hopes for the new devices. His congregation, Park United Methodist Church, helped raise the money to buy the transmitters and antenna.

“If a family has someone who wanders off, what are they able to do?” he says. “They may gather family members together and go out and search, but it can be frustrating. They may never have any luck finding their loved one. With this system, we can increase the efficiency of the search so much and hopefully get them back to their family unharmed.”

Mosier knows time is of the essence when locating lost seniors. Within the last few years, three Alzheimer’s patients have died in Coshocton County from exposure to the elements. Mosier hopes the tracking bracelets will prevent more deaths.

A nonprofit organization called Project Lifesaver makes the transmitters available to law enforcement agencies. So far, more than 1,000 searches for victims of Alzheimer’s and related disorders have been conducted successfully using the devices, according to the organization’s Web site, www.projectlifesaver.org

Across the United States, more than 5 million people have Alzheimer’s disease. More than 50 percent of those victims have wandered off and gotten lost. 

With the number of Alzheimer’s patients expected to triple in the next 45 years, the Coshocton County Sheriff’s Office decided it was a good time to invest in Project Lifesaver. But community support would be needed to make it happen.

When Mosier told his fellow Park Church members about the transmitters, missions committee member Mary Hughes quickly got on board.

“In 2001 my sister was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and had to go into a lockdown unit,” she recounts. “So when I talked to Capt. Jon Mosier about it, it just kind of stuck to my mind and my heart that we needed to do something with our mission money.”

Hughes realizes Project Lifesaver, a secular organization, is not on most churches’ short lists for donations. But she believes her church shouldn’t establish religious boundaries when it comes to helping locals.  

“We do a lot in foreign countries and overseas countries, but we also need to look at our own community and see where a need is in our community,” she says. “And I think this is one great thing that there is a need for.”

With donations from Park United Methodist Church and other local organizations, the county was able to buy 12 transmitter bracelets and a corresponding search antenna. Although the bracelets cost $250 apiece, no one in Coshocton County who needs a bracelet will go without one.  

“Contributions from people such as the United Methodist church has helped us to be able to assure people that regardless of whether they can actually afford it, the service is still going to be available to them,” Mosier says.

The contributions also paid for the training of four Coshocton County deputies.  They learned not only how to operate the equipment, but also how to respond physically and emotionally to the trauma a lost Alzheimer’s patient might be experiencing.

It’s training Gloria Trustdorf is grateful her sheriff’s department has received.  Her father was first in line to be fitted for a bracelet at the Coshocton County Sheriff’s Office. 

“I’m doing this because he has a tendency to run when he gets outside, and he was lost for six hours last summer,” she explains. “And it worries me that he’ll get out and get hurt, get run over. I want this done so he’s safe.”

*Ferrier is a freelance writer and producer in the Nashville, Tenn., area.

News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5458 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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