Technology Helps Find Missing Patients

By: Venton D. Blandin
By: Venton D. Blandin

April 25, 2005

Each year, hundreds of sick patients go missing as they wander away from home and hospitals, disoriented from diseases like Alzheimer's Disease. Now as part of a non-profit crime prevention-through-education program for the county, Albemarle County Sheriff Ed Robb introduces 'Project Lifesaver' to help authorities find them quickly.

'Project Lifesaver' is an innovative approach to finding people with Alzheimer's' Disease, Autism, or other conditions who wander off. People with those conditions may leave their homes and become utterly lost, unable to find their way home or tell others where they live. With the help of Sheriff Robb, 'Project Lifesaver' can help find them.

"This device which is placed on a victim is tracked by a receiver," said Albemarle County Sheriff Ed Robb.

The transmitter costs about $300. Robb has teamed up with the Alzheimer's' Association and the Jefferson Area Board for Aging to find people who need this technology, and get it to them with a cost as low as possible.

Randi Rod of Albemarle County has a son coping with autism, and is fitted with a personalized bracelet about the size of a large watch. Embedded in the bracelet is a small radio transmitter. If her son becomes lost, all she would have to do is notify the group of volunteers at the sheriff's department that her son is missing. Immediately, a search and rescue team would begin a search for him using a mobile locater tracking system.

Fortunately for Randi, she hasn't had to make that call, but feels comfort knowing her options. "It undoubtedly gives us a sense of comfort to know he has it, and to know the sheriff's office is out there," she explained.

'Project Lifesaver' began in 1999 in Hampton Roads, Virginia, and has grown to other law enforcement agencies nationwide. Robb and his volunteer team of sheriff's deputies started using the technology last summer. Though going through several levels of certification to use this equipment, there are only two people served by the Albemarle County sheriff's department, and Sheriff Robb says there are many more who need it.

The bracelet also comes with a $10 monthly fee for battery replacement, and scholarships can be provided for those who need the bracelet, and have limited funds. Anyone who wants this should call (434) 972-4001.

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