Devices help Alzheimer's patients who wander

March 16, 2007|by DAN DEARTH

An inexpensive device is available that will help identify people with Alzheimer's disease if they wander off.

Safe Return, a national program sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association, offers dog tags, wristbands and wallet cards that identify the wearer as an Alzheimer's patient, said Mary Ellen Mitchell, development coordinator of the Alzheimer's Association's Hagerstown and Frederick offices.

The devices also list a telephone number that helps rescuers get the victim back home, she said.

One of the identification devices costs $20 per year, Mitchell said.

"It's a very scary situation to be lost," she said. "About 70 percent of the people who have Alzheimer's wander."

In one case, a local Alzheimer's patient recently got behind the wheel of a car and drove to Delaware before they were found, she said.

"We try to encourage people to sign up for this program, so they can have it in place before they need it," Mitchell said.


Seventy-three Washington County residents are enrolled in Safe Return, said Lisa Peterson, program director of the Alzheimer's Association's Greater Maryland Chapter.

"The word is getting out," she said. "I think it's a beneficial thing."

Caregivers and relatives can wear the devices as well, Peterson said.

If a husband dies while caring for his wife with Alzheimer's disease, for example, the information on his device can be used to track other family members.

D. Earl Wolf, 90, of Hagerstown said he wore a Safe Return bracelet when his wife, Gladys, suffered from Alzheimer's.

Although she died in 2005, Wolf said he was comforted by the bracelet because one of his sons would be called if something happened to him.

Facts about Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder that gradually destroys a person's memory and ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate and perform daily activities. There is no cure.

For more information on Safe Return, call 301-797-4892 or visit

Source: Alzheimer's Association

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