Victoria’s Project Life Saver achieves its desired goal, saving dementia patients

Alzheimer patient returned to family thanks to electronic monitoring device

A local technology is being credited for the safe return of an elderly dementia patient after she wandered away from a Victoria assisted living residence last week.

Project Life Saver uses a locally manufactured transmitter to locate missing persons with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. The transmitter is about the size of a wristwatch and emits a signal that allows search and rescue teams to easily locate individuals who have a tendency to wander.

On July 10, Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Pacific search and rescue received a call about the missing woman and located her, unharmed, within 40 minutes.

“About 59 per cent of persons with dementia wander off, and of those, 72 per cent will do it repeatedly,” said Marjorie Moulton, executive director of We Rage, We Weep Alzheimer Foundation, which offers Project Life Saver at no charge to Greater Victoria residents.

Ron Bazuk has been participating in the program for the past year, after his father’s mental health deteriorated following Bazuk’s mother’s death. He is among the two-thirds of people who choose to take full-time care of a family member rather than rely on assisted living residences.

“His memory doesn’t last more than a few seconds now,” Bazuk said. “He might be able to tell you his wartime serial number, but if you tell him what year it is, he won’t know a few minutes later.”

The survival rate of a person with cognitive impairment – in good physical condition – is only 50 per cent if they are missing up to 24 hours. After 24 hours, they are likely to be severely injured or dead. It was that stark statistic that compelled Bazuk to sign his father up for Project Life Saver.

“A few months back, I’d been to the store and came back, and just couldn’t find him,” he said. “I went around the block a few times, and this is the first time I used it. … I called and it was a matter of five, 10 minutes. They found him … he was in front of the Empress. He was quite content there, he didn’t think there was any big deal.”

Bazuk was initially embarrassed of calling for help, something Moulton admits is common amongst new users of the service.

“People feel maybe a little bit uncomfortable asking an outside party to help, or they think the Search and Rescue have better things to do,” she said. “But really, this is what Search and Rescue is there to do. They do it because they care, they love it and it’s important to them to keep these folks in the community safe.”

We Rage, We Weep Alzheimer Foundation is a charitable organization that also provides art and music classes to those with dementia. Project Life Saver is used by more more than 17,000 people across the United States and Canada. Since 1999, it has been used in more than 2,500 searches and has a 100-per-cent success rate.

dpalmer@vicnews.com

Just Posted

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Colwood council is looking at potential summer weekend closures to traffic of a section of Ocean Boulevard at Esquimalt Lagoon, to allow for more of a park-like setting during summer events such as the popular Eats & Beats event, shown here in 2018. (Black Press Media file photo)
Mayor lobbying for summer weekend closures of beachfront Colwood roadway

Rob Martin to bring motion forward to June 28 council meeting

The Victoria Royals will return to the Save-on-Foods Memorial Arena for the first time since the 2019-20 campaign when they open next season against the Vancouver Giants on Oct. 2. (Black Press Media file photo)
Fans expected in the Save-On stands for Victoria Royals’ Oct. 2 home opener

It’ll be the first Western Hockey League action at the arena since March 2020

Police are looking for witnesses and video footage after a crash on June 18. (Photo courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
West Shore RCMP looking for videos related to Corvette crash

Driver believed to have fled the scene of View Royal crash

The Pat Bay Highway was closed for several hours Monday morning after a drug-impaired driver crashed into two hydro poles. (Black Press Media file photo)
UPDATE: Pat Bay closure caused by drug-impaired driver

Man struck two hydro poles, closing a section of the Pat Bay Monday morning

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Emergency vehicles are parked outside of the Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni RCMP investigate stabbing on Fourth Avenue

Two men were found with ‘significant’ injuries near Wintergreen Apartments

A blood drive in support of 1-year-old Rielynn Gormley of Agassiz is scheduled for Monday, June 28 at Tzeachten First Nation Community Hall in Chilliwack. Rielynn lives with type 3 von Willebrand disease, which makes it difficult for her to stop bleeding. (Screenshot/Canadian Blood Services)
Upcoming blood drive in honour of Fraser Valley toddler with rare blood condition

The Gormley family has organized a blood drive in Chilliwack on June 28

One Reconciliation Pole and two Welcome Figures were unveiled during a ceremony in honour of truth and reconciliation on National Peoples Indigenous Day at the Vancouver School District in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday, June 21, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Horgan marks Indigenous Peoples Day by urging recognition of systemic racism

National Indigenous Peoples Day has been marked in Canada since 1996

A man makes his way past signage to a mass COVID-19 vaccination centre at the University of Toronto’s Mississauga campus during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mississauga, Ont., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians encouraged to see mRNA shots as interchangeable as more 2nd doses open up

Doctors urge people not to hesitate if offered Moderna after getting Pfizer for their first shot

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference in Ottawa on June 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Defence committee rises without report on Vance allegations

Committee had been investigating the government’s handling of complaints against former defence chief

The Coquihalla Lakes washroom is getting upgrades. (Submitted)
Coquihalla to get upgrades to aging washrooms

The Ministry of Transportation is providing $1 million in funding to upgrade 3 rest areas

The Crofton trailer park home where the bodies of two people were found. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Mom still waiting for answers after daughter and her fiance found dead in Crofton

Pair discovered dead in their Crofton home in May identified as Rachel Gardner and Paul Jenkins

By the end of life, the average North American has eaten the weight of a family sedan in sugar. (Pixabay.com)
FITNESS: Living the sweet life without too much sugar

Simple choices can have a major impact on your health

Most Read