Project Lifesaver expands to include people with dementia

LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - If you have a family member or loved one who is prone to wandering, Project Lifesaver is looking to give you peace of mind.

It launched here in Lincoln last October and its already expanding, with hopes of keeping even more people safe.

Project Lifesaver started with a focus on people with autism who wander.

But now, it also wants to help those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

A little battery operated bracelet slips on the wrist or ankle of someone prone to wandering and if they go missing Lincoln Police can use a tracking device to help locate them.

Vicki Depenbusch says after talking with the Alzheimer’s Association about wandering, she realized Project Lifesaver could help.

"We realized that there were similarities with autism and Alzheimer’s patients,” said Program Director for Project Lifesaver, Vicki Depenbusch.

Depenbusch says some of those similarities have to do with things like not being able to remember how to say their name.

"One of the biggest things is a lot of the time they don't always communicate well if they are disoriented,” said Depenbusch.

According to the Nebraska Alzheimer’s Association, 60% of people with Alzheimer’s or dementia are prone to wandering.

And Project Lifesaver is something that it says can make a big difference.

"I think any way we can help to provide tracking and help for families and helping those loved ones get back home and hopefully not have them wander in the first place, is an excellent thing to do,” said Mollie George.

Lincoln Police say this can also help officers cut down the time it takes to locate those people, something that is crucial.

"As well as cutting down on resources that we would use that maybe a search might otherwise take hours,” said Lincoln Police Department's Cassi Nissen.

Depenbusch says she wants everyone to know, if you know someone that wanders, they want to help.

"We want to be able to give those families a peace of mind,” said Depenbusch.

Project Lifesaver says as of right now it has not had to use the tracking technology yet, but there are currently 15 people in the area with the bracelets.

If you would like more information on Project Lifesaver, Depenbusch says you can call the Autism Family Network here in Lincoln.

That number is (402) 421-8866.