Nanaimo Search and Rescue launched a new program to help track people with dementia or other cognitive conditions who wander off and get lost.
The non-profit society has announced it will bring Project Lifesaver to the city. The service allows people to sign loved up ones to wear a radio transmitter on their wrist or ankle, which search and rescue workers can then trace in the event the person wearing it gets lost. The reception will work even in places such as dense woods or in steel or concrete buildings.
Training for the service is provided by Project Lifesaver International, a Virginia-based non-profit committed to helping families locate friends or family members who are at risk due to dementia or other underlying conditions. Nanaimo SAR has partnered with the Nanaimo Lifeline Program to administer the service locally, and they have already signed up one client, said Michelle Tonn, a SAR volunteer in charge of training and logistics for the program.
The cost to sign up for a year is approximately $400, but she said a person's chance of survival if lost outdoors increases dramatically if they are wearing it. A healthy person has a 50-per-cent chance of survival over 24 hours if they are lost, she said. For a frail person with cognitive issues, the odds are substantively worse.
"This will give us the opportunity to track them down a lot sooner," Tonn said.
Nanaimo SAR president Rob Christopher agreed.
"Time is crucial," he said.
"Finding those people within the first hour, their chances are greatly increased."
The average rescue time while wearing the transmitter is 30 minutes, according to a press release issued by Nanaimo SAR.
People interested in signing up a family member or friend into the program can do so by calling Nanaimo Lifeline at 250-739-5770.
Financial assistance may be available to those who need it.
According to statistics from the Vancouver Island Health Authority, Nanaimo has 1,452 residents who are afflicted with dementia, or 1.4 per cent of the population.
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