Bracelets Help Find Missing Alzheimer's Seniors

When Clara Joan Klisch got in her car Sunday night, she drove until someone stopped her.

That wasn't until Monday morning, when Klisch, 72, was stopped by a police officer for running a red light. In Noblesville, Ind.

"She thought she was still in Michigan," said Lt. Eric Trojanowicz of the Ingham County Sheriff's Office Delhi Division. "If she would have never comitted a traffic violation, who knows how far she would have gone?"

The Indiana officer only knew Klisch was missing because the Sheriff's Department had put her vehicle information in a national database.

The Alzheimer's Association is promoting Safe Return bracelets and necklaces to help identify missing and wandering seniors. On one side of the bracelet are the words "Safe Return." On the other side is personal information and a phone number to call to report the missing person.

"We have a 99 percent success rate with that program, so it is very effective," said Julie Duesing, program coordinator at the Alzheimer's Association's Michigan Great Lakes Chapter. "It's even effective for those families that have not registered but they have a missing person with Alzheimer's."

Six in ten seniors with Alzheimer's wander, according to the Michigan Alzheimer's Association, and many are in danger from the minute they leave familiar surroundings, Duesing said.

"[It] is a safety issue because when somebody is lost and they're wandering, depending on the weather, you maybe only have 24 hours to find them before serious injury or death," she said "So that's really an important issue."

Duesing said other technology, such as installing GPS devices in clothing and cars can help too.

The Sheriff's Department says it's most important to make sure someone with Alzheimer's is never alone.

"It doesn't take very long for an Alzheimers patient to disappear," said Trojanowicz. "You always want someone with them because they become confused easily, they don't know their surroundings, and next thing you know they're lost and they can't find their way home."

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