Bracelets Help Locate Lost Loved Ones

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Richard and Martha Roy have enjoyed 51 years together.

Now Martha suffers from dementia and their joy has been replaced by anxiety.

"Right now I have to keep an eye on her constantly," Richard said. "It's like they say -- ‘it's a 36-hour-a-day job.'"

As reported cases of Alzheimer's disease and autism rise, there is an accompanying need to keep the victims of these conditions safe.

One way is to provide locating devices for those suffering from Alzheimer's, dementia, autism and other illnesses that result in disorientation. The Tonto Rim Search and Rescue Squad, Inc. is working to bring Project Lifesaver bracelets to the Rim country. Project Lifesaver uses state-of-the-art technology employing wristband transmitters to locate wandering and lost adults and children.

It has been used for five years by 320 sheriff's offices, police and public safety agencies in 37 states.

"In 1,000 missions, in which it has been used, the equipment has helped find victims within an average of 22 minutes, resulting in 100 percent success," said Dave Pirtle, commander of TRSAR.

"The TRSAR volunteers are called on searches for persons in this category at least twice a year -- there were three such searches in 2004," Pirtle said. "I personally have participated in more than 130 missions with this group in the past six years. All searches have been successful, except for two -- both were Alzheimer's patients who just wandered off."

One such successful search was made on behalf of Martha Roy.

The Roys make their home in one of the many Rim areas surrounded by forests.

"I had to call Tonto Rim Search and Rescue because she strayed away," Richard said. "They were here so fast when I called. Without having any instruments to locate her, they found tracks and tracked her."

Pirtle explained Martha had walked off on the side of the pavement, one foot was in the dirt and the other on the pavement, so they were able to track her.

"Fortunately they were able to find her and within an hour they had her back home," Richard said.

Asked about the potential benefits of Project Lifesaver, Richard said, "Peace of mind would be number one. Even going to places like the airport -- I lost her in the airport the other day. It would definitely bring peace of mind."

Pirtle said Sgt. Terry Hudgens of the Gila County Sheriff's Office has estimated that are more than 100 potential at-risk residents in the Rim country.

"It's about the peace of mind you can give caregivers and relieving them of some of the stress they have to deal with," Pirtle said.

The initial start up costs for Project Lifesaver will be $10,000, which includes all electronic receiving equipment, 20 wristband transmitters and training. There will be an annual cost of $2,000 for maintenance of the equipment, Pirtle said.

Approximately $7,000 has been collected, including a $1,000 contribution from the Mogollon Health Alliance.

"We take these kind of things and lost children very seriously," Pirtle said. "Whenever someone's life is in jeopardy, we respond with great urgency. We've got a great group of people -- they're trained in so many ways and they care so much."

To help TRSAR make its $10,000 goal, tax deductible donations can be made to the Mogollon Health Alliance, attention Judy Baker, 908 E. Aero Drive, Payson, or call (928) 472-2588, or send contributions directly to Tonto Rim Search and Rescue, P.O. Box 357, Strawberry, AZ 85544, or call (928) 970-3830.

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