Bracelets help find people with Alzheimer’s

Pictured above is the device that is threaded with a band for a person with dementia or Alzheimers to wear. (Photo courtesy of Greg Hitchcock)

MAYFIELD — When Robert Betler wandered away from home in Mayfield one day, it was a terrifying experience for his wife Judy.

“I drove around looking for him and couldn’t find him,” Judy Betler said. “Thankfully, we had the bracelet.”

Robert Betler has Alzheimer’s disease. The bracelet is part of Project Lifesaver, a program designed to quickly locate people with cognitive disorders who are prone to the life threatening behavior of wandering.

According to the organization’s website, 3,362 people were rescued using the Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking bracelet provided by Project Lifesaver and managed by local public safety agencies across the United States.

Six out of 10 people with dementia will wander, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, often without remembering their names and addresses while appearing disoriented.

The Alzheimer’s Association stated that if not found within 24 hours, up to half of wandering individuals will suffer serious injury or death.

In Fulton County, the Sheriff’s Office has the task of giving out bracelets to those who need them.

Sheriff Richard Giardino said the program came to Fulton County in 2015, with 10 bracelets. However nine are in use already.

“The need is much greater than we have,” Giardino said.

He said the county does not fund Project Lifesaver bracelets, the program relying on public donations alone.

“We give the bracelets out freely to people who need them especially because many people are on a limited income,” said Sgt. Herbert Roots, who is the officer-in-charge of the program.

“We’ve had several incidents that when Project Lifesaver was activated, the person was found,” Giardino said.

According to Project Lifesaver, search times have been reduced from hours, potentially days, down to minutes.

The Betler’s pastor, the Rev. Bonnie Orth of the Mayfield Central Presbyterian Church, is on a mission to raise funds for a tracker bracelet at her church, and has urged 49 other churches in Fulton County to do likewise with the full cooperation of the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department.

“I thought it was very worthwhile and the more I thought about it I realized almost every church will have someone in need of that,” Orth said.

“What I subsequently learned was that it wasn’t only for people with Alzheimer’s living at home, but also for children with autism. That made it even more important,” she said.

The cost of the bracelet is approximately $300 with replacement batteries costing an additional $50 a piece, batteries that must be replaced every two months.

The money raised goes directly to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department in the Project Lifesaver account and will be used exclusively for the bracelets and the batteries that go with them.

By Patricia Older

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