On Thursday, WESH reported that an 81-year-old woman with dementia was found wandering along one of the busiest highways in Brevard County, Florida. Kathy Bickham got out of her home while her husband, Ira, was taking a nap. She shortly was wandering near Highway 520, on Merritt Island.
Mrs. Bickham managed to walk three miles, to the foot of the Merritt Island causeway. It could have been catastrophic, but Mrs. Bickham is enrolled in a special lifesaving program from an award-winning, internationally recognized organization. She wears a special ankle bracelet from Project Lifesaver. It’s a small personal transmitter, not much bigger than a quarter, that can be worn around the wrist or ankle and emits an individualized tracking signal.
When he discovered she was missing, her husband notified their local Project Lifesaver agency, and a trained emergency team responded. A Brevard County Sheriff’s helicopter began narrowing the search for the senior and her transmitter.
The Sheriff’s chopper pilot says, “You can just plug into the console and narrow it in until you get right on top of the person.” Mrs. Bickham was quickly located. She had already fallen, was bleeding and bruised, but was brought home without further tragedy. Mr. Bickham says, “I think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread for old folks. You don’t have to worry so much; you have help.” In Brevard County, they are available through the Brevard Sheriff’s office.
According to Project Lifesaver, most who wander are found within a few miles from home, and search times have been reduced from hours and days to minutes. Recovery times for clients average 30 minutes, 95% less time than standard ground operations. The project has a 100% success rate, and a sliding scale for those who cannot afford the monthly fee. Some agencies participate in grant programs and may be able to provide services at discounted rates or at no charge. There are also a number of funding sources for this technology that may help families receive financial support. According to their website that lists recent rescues, today in Nashville, North Carolina, a patient with Alzheimer’s was located in seven minutes.
If one of your loved ones might benefit from this device, contact the company. Their primary mission is “to provide timely response to save lives and reduce potential injury for adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer’s, autism, and other related conditions or disorders.”