PRINEVILLE, Ore. - For anyone dealing with a loved one who has Alzheimer?s, dementia or other mental challenge, there can be a real fear that the loved one could wander off and need help -- and not be found in time. Now, a new program is helping rescuers find these patients fast.
Waving a small antenna in a wide arc, beeps start to emanate from the receiver. With each one, Dave Freitag is a step closer to saving a life.
?The survival rate for an Alzheimer's patient after 24 hours is less than 50 percent," he says at the beginning of the search.
Project Lifesaver is a new tool for the Crook County Search and Rescue teams. The program provides small radio transmitters, typically worn on the ankle, to people who may wander off and need assistance.
When they are reported missing, search and rescue volunteers use a receiver to track them down. The average time it takes to find someone drops from nine hours to less than 30 minutes.
Dave Freitag and Jim Burge recall a search two years ago where they wish Project Lifesaver had been available.
"We located him within a half-mile of his home, even though he had traveled somewhere in the vicinity of 8 to 10 miles,? said Burge.
"And by the time we tracked him down, he had deceased," added Freitag.
Project Lifesaver is free for clients. It?s new to Crook County. So far, the equipment has been paid for by donations and grants.
"To be quite frank, I do not have the personnel, deputies-wise, to be able to maintain and run a program like this without these great volunteers we have in Search and Rescue," said Crook County Sheriff Jim Hensley.
Search and Rescue recently put their first Project Lifesaver transmitter on a client. They have five more transmitters on the way. And though they are $300 each, they want anyone who needs one to call.
"If the need comes up. I'm sure as always this community will step forward," said Hensley.
Deschutes County is also part of the Project Lifesaver program. If you are a caregiver or loved one and would like to sign up someone in need, you should contact your local sheriff's office.