TUSCOLA — Every minute counts when somebody with dementia or autism has wandered away from home.
Now, the Douglas County Emergency Management Agency can narrow the time involved in finding a lost loved one with a new tracking system.
The agency announced this week that it has purchased the system through a $5,000 grant through Project Lifesaver, and it's now available for use in Douglas County for patients with forms of dementia, autism and other conditions that may make them prone to wandering.
Joseph Victor, director of the agency, said people enrolled will wear a small transmitting signal in a battery-operated bracelet. And if they wind up missing, his team of volunteers is trained to respond.
The average recovery time for a person enrolled in the system is 30 minutes, according to Project Lifesaver.
The service won't be a money-maker for the Douglas County agency, but it won't be free to users either, Victor said.
His agency received three bracelets to start off and will be replenishing them by charging each user the cost of a new one, $250, plus an $8 monthly maintenance fee to cover expenses, including gasoline to do a monthly battery check.
"We keep ordering in new transponders," Victor said. "Once we put a transponder on, we have to replace it and that's what that fee is going to be used for."
Typically, a person will walk about 4 miles in an hour and most Alzheimer's patients who wander away from home are found within a mile from where they live. Finding them fast is important, Victor said, because chances for survival decline 50 percent after someone is missing 24 hours because medical and environmental conditions.
"I'm a baby boomer. Half the staff are baby boomers, and we realized Alzheimer's is something that is in the future of not only us, but half the people we associate with," he said.
Anyone interested in more information about the system or enrolling a family member, call the Douglas County EMA at 253-9538.