Project Lifesaver offers extra support for families

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There's a relatively new program in Oxford County to help a little extra peace of mind for the family of someone who wanders.

Project Lifesaver is a program offered through Victim Assistance Services of Oxford County in association with the Oxford County OPP. Typically, clients would include those living with Alzheimer's disease, autism, Down syndrome, acquired brain injury or other cognitive impairment.

Funding to purchase the initial equipment and get the program started in Oxford County was provided by the Tillsonburg Lioness Club in 2012.

Program co-ordinator Dawn Triska said Project Lifesaver involves a client wearing a bracelet that emits a radio frequency. If a client wanders and can't be found within 15 minutes, the family calls the OPP to report them missing, which initiates a special response from the police. Two officers on each shift are trained in the Project Lifesaver protocol.

"I'd really like people to know that Project Lifesaver is here," Triska said.

"It's an awesome program for a caregiver who has a wanderer at home," she said. "If a person does wander, Project Lifesaver is almost certainly going to be able to bring them home."

Triska said there have been 2,847 searches initiated under Project Lifesaver in 1,300 agencies in Canada and the U.S. over a 15-year period, and no serious injuries or fatalities were ever reported. The average recovery time of a person registered with Project Lifesaver is 30 minutes, which Triska said can make the difference between life and death.

"If you have someone who needs this service, anything you can put in place for them is beneficial to them."

Some people have been asking for applications, said Triska, but no one is yet officially registered with the program. The application process includes interviews and paperwork, and an initial fee of $400, which essentially replaces the cost of the bracelet that will be provided to the next client. There is also a $20 monthly appointment and maintenance fee, as someone attends the client's home to change the battery in the bracelet.

Triska said if the financial part of the program is causing people to put off applying, they should know that doesn't have to be a problem.

"There are agencies ... that won't let people go without," she said.

To get more information or apply for Project Lifesaver, contact Triska at 519-485-6554 ext. 5954.

jennifer.vandermeer@sunmedia.ca

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