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TMCNet:  Database upcoming for use in search for elderly: Officials hope information will help find Alzheimer's patients who wander away

[August 21, 2009]

Database upcoming for use in search for elderly: Officials hope information will help find Alzheimer's patients who wander away

Aug 21, 2009 (The Daily News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The Warren County Rescue Department is embarking on a program that will help them during searches for missing Alzheimer's patients and elderly people suffering from dementia.

The rescue squad announced Operation Golden Retrieval on Thursday during a news conference at the Tomorrow Center on Adams Street, describing the program as an important tool that can help emergency personnel more quickly locate a missing elderly person.

"In any situation when we're trying to find a missing person, the first few minutes are critical," said Deborah Williams, public information officer for the rescue department. "It can mean life or death for that person." The program involves relatives and caregivers for elderly people suffering from a mental condition to register with the rescue department by creating a memory kit, which contains vital information about the person who may be vulnerable to going missing.

The person's birth date, height, weight, hair and eye color, medications and a color photo will be part of each memory kit, along with additional information such as the person's former residential addresses and places a person is likely to go when wandering off.

Comparing the memory kit to a child ID kit used by law enforcement during Amber alerts, Williams said the relative or caregiver could maintain the memory kit on a refrigerator for convenience and the rescue department would maintain the information on each person on a secure, password-protected online database.

During a missing person investigation, the rescue department will be able to access the information on a computer in the search trailer that officials set up on site.

Williams said the idea for the program came about soon after the rescue department was called to help find an elderly woman with dementia who had gone missing.

The rescue department received information that they later aired over local TV that the woman was 72, only to learn later that the woman was 87.

"We need to have as much accurate information as we can get when we arrive at the scene," Williams said. "Hopefully, all we'll have to ask (in an emergency) are what are they wearing and have they taken their medication." Warren County Rescue Department Chief Andy Tucker said that the department responded to 169 incidents in 2008.

"About 48 percent of our call volume was requests to respond to missing persons," Tucker said.

Two months ago, an 84-year-old Alzheimer's patient was found dead in Barren River hours after going missing from her Cemetery Road home.

In July 2008, the rescue department found an 86-year-old woman with dementia wandering the grounds of Fruit of the Loom who had walked away from Bowling Green Retirement Village the previous day.

Tucker said he anticipates the database capabilities to be developed by the end of the week, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to register information about their elderly patient online themselves.

Williams said that community partners such as the Bowling Green Police Department, Warren County Sheriff's Office, Kentucky State Police, Greenview Regional Hospital and Warren County AARP will soon help distribute the kits at various locations.

Participating families and caregivers will receive periodic letters or e-mails reminding them to update information on the memory kit and to notify when a registered elderly patient has died.

The rescue department will soon contact area nursing homes to inform them about the program and ask the families of patients there if they would be willing to participate.

Registration for Operation Golden Retrieval will be from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sept. 8 at the Warren County Rescue Department headquarters at 1125 Lewis Ave.

Subsequent registration efforts will take place at Greenwood Mall and at Warren County's volunteer fire departments, Williams said.

To see more of the Bowling Green Daily News, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.bgdailynews.com. Copyright (c) 2009, The Daily News, Bowling Green, Ky. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For reprints, email tmsreprints@permissionsgroup.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

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