Alzheimer’s disease patients in Doña Ana County, who may wander and become lost from their residence or nursing homes, can be rescued with greater efficiency by tracking equipment purchased by the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s Department.
Sheriff Juan Hernandez said grant money was used to initiate Project Lifesaver, in which 100 electronic tracking bracelets and a mobile locator were purchased to locate missing patients who wear the bracelets.
Hernandez said a two- or three-day search would be reduced to less than an hour with the aid of the tracking equipment. Use of the equipment reduces the need for extensive search and rescue operations that are extremely costly in both financial and human resources. Hernandez said patients not found within 24 hours have a 46 percent survival rate. Between 1999 and November 2001, the bracelets helped locate 162 missing people in Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and Ohio – all within 30 minutes, he said.
Candidates for the tracking bracelets are patients with dementia-related disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, who are prone to wandering. Hernandez said he will meet with Alzheimer’s clinics and caregiving facilities in the county to make the bracelets available. Hernandez said patients wear the bracelets only by the request or consent of families and caregivers. Other candidates may be patients with Down’s syndrome, autism, developmental disabilities, brain injuries or other conditions that make them especially vulnerable.
Each waterproof bracelet emits a specific radio wave assigned to the patient. When a patient is reported missing, a Sheriff’s Department shift supervisor or deputy trained to use the mobile locator will arrive at the patient’s last known location and follow the mobile locator’s tracking beacon until the patient is found. Hernandez said all deputies will be trained to use the mobile locator, which he said tracks the bracelet within a 5-mile radius, and can also be used from an aircraft.
Hernandez said he plans to combine grants with private donations from residents and civic organizations to purchase additional bracelets and two more mobile locators. He said the two locators would be used by the Sheriff’s Department’s Hatch and Anthony substations in order to facilitate more immediate searches in the northern and southern regions of the county.
For more information, call county Public Information Director Jess Williams at (505) 647-7229. Residents calling from outside the Las Cruces area may call toll-free at 1-877-827-7200 and request extension 7229.