Sign up for Project Lifesaver

Published 9:35 pm Monday, October 18, 2010

After several weeks of preliminary coverage by reporter Leila Roche about Saturday’s Memory Walk for the Alzheimer’s Association, I had the privilege of covering the event that morning at Constant’s Wharf.

I stood ready with my camera as the walkers took off on their journeys. Many of them carried signs and wore matching T-shirts to honor their loved ones who died of or are currently suffering from Alzheimer’s. Some Alzheimer’s patients even walked with their families to help in the fight for their own cure.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that doesn’t just affect the person who has it. Family and friends also suffer as they watch their loved ones slip away. Some become completely different people, and others simply become shells of their former selves. As the disease progresses, they can no longer remember the names of their spouses, children and lifelong friends.


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It’s understandable that many family members may want to keep their suffering as private as possible, but there is a program in Suffolk that can help ease the burden of Alzheimer’s just a tiny bit.

The program is called Project Lifesaver. Lt. Mason Copeland of Suffolk Fire and Rescue was at the Memory Walk on Saturday demonstrating how it works to families affected by the illness.

Project Lifesaver operates using no local tax dollars and no fees from clients. It is entirely supported by grants and donations. Clients’ families can sign them up to receive a transmitter bracelet that is worn at all times. It emits a signal that can be picked up by tracking equipment kept by each of the city’s fire stations in the event the person is reported missing. The only time commitment by the client’s caretaker is a daily check to ensure the bracelet still is working properly and a monthly visit by fire department officials to change the transmitter’s battery.

Copeland said he currently has about 15 clients in the program. It’s not just for Alzheimer’s patients — a handful of clients are children with autism and Down syndrome.

I’m sure there are more Alzheimer’s patients in Suffolk than Copeland has on his rolls, so I encourage everyone with a family member with Alzheimer’s to call him at 514-7590 for more information. Even if your family member never wanders, it will give you and other caretakers peace of mind. If they do, it could help save their life.