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Local Police Offer Tracking Wristbands For Dementia Patients

WOODWAY (December 23, 2013) Starting in January of 2014, the Woodway Public Safety Department will be making tracking wristbands available to residents who have a tendency to wander from their homes.

The wristbands are primarily for residents with Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia, or Mental Dysfunction Disorders. They are also going to be made available to special needs children.

Woodway Public Safety started the initiative after becoming involved with Project Lifesaver International, a non-profit organization that bridges the technological gap for “at risk” populations and public safety agencies.

Scores of missing cases involving residents with cognitive disabilities go reported in Texas each year. If not found quickly, they are at high risk of serious injury or even death.

Residents signed up with Project Lifesaver through the Woodway Public Safety Department will receive a small personal radio transmitter wristband to be worn around their wrist or their ankle.

The device is not utilized via a computer or GPS satellite, but by a handheld and car radio antenna inside Woodway Police that covers one air mile. The antennas beep in the direction of the wristband when they are close in proximity. Each wristband is set on its own frequency as to not cause confusion.

If a person wearing the wristband goes missing, Woodway Police’s trained emergency response team is dispatched to that person’s last location and begins searching.

"Instead of a 4 or 5 hour search involving multiple people and agencies, we can reduce time by using this tool to track missing people down hopefully in a matter of minutes," Woodway Police Chief Yost Zakhary said.

During training, the longest it took Woodway Police to find a simulated missing subject, was 35 minutes.

If a person were to leave the radius of Woodway’s antenna, like in a car, the wristband can be of little use. But Chief Zakhary says many with cognitive disabilities who become lost are normally found within yards of their home.

“It’s all about disorientation. Many of these people start out going for a walk, or maybe they’ll step outside for a bit, and they’ll just get lost,” he said.

Temple Police instated a similar program recently to which department spokesman Cpl. Chris Wilcox says has been very successful.

"It has helped us several times in the past when it came to locating numerous people," Wilcox said.

To get a wristband, you must live within the city limits of Woodway and be able to prove you are diagnosed with a condition like Alzheimer’s, Dementia, etc.

The only downfall to the wristbands is they cost $300.

But Chief Zakhary says if someone cannot afford one and the need is great enough, the City of Woodway will work with that person to work out a solution for payment.

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