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Financial aid available for Alzheimer's program

March 13, 2002|BY ERICA ENSMINGER

A program that helps return Alzheimer's patients to their homes if they wander away is now affordable to more people.

About 60 percent of the 4 million Americans with Alzheimer's disease will wander away at least once, according to information provided by the Western Maryland Alzheimer's Association. The disease causes individuals to lose their ability to recognize familiar places and people.

The Alzheimer's Association Safe Return program helps return safely those with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias who wander and become lost.

Services include identification products, a national photo/information database, a 24-hour, toll-free emergency crisis line, local chapter support and wandering behavior education for caregivers and families.

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Wandering "is dangerous and life-threatening," said Mary Collins of the Western Maryland Alzheimer's Association. "What we are trying to do is get individuals enrolled in the program before a wandering occurs."

A $40 registration fee is required for the program. Assistance in paying the fee is available to minority and rural families with incomes lower than $31,119 in Washington, Frederick, Allegany and Garrett counties. The financial help is available until June 30.

A toll-free number is listed on a Safe Return identification wallet card, a piece of jewelry or clothing labels worn or carried by an Alzheimer's patient. When called, Safe Return employees alert the family.

If a person is reported missing, Safe Return can fax local police the missing person's information and photograph. Local Alzheimer's Association chapters provide family support while police conduct the search and rescue.

The Safe Return program, established in 1983, has helped return more than 6,700 individuals, Collins said.

Safe Return is a nationwide program. If a person lives near the border of two states, authorities in the neighboring state can be alerted if the person wanders into that area.

"It's really just a wonderful safety net," Collins said.

Any resident of Washington County who meets the financial requirement may apply for the grant. To register for the Safe Return program or to learn more about wandering, contact the association at 301-797-4892 or send e-mail to alzwmd@aol.com.

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