- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 16, 2015

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Alzheimer’s patients who wander away from home can often touch off intense and expensive manhunts as rescuers rush to find them before they succumb to the elements.

That’s why groups including the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern Nevada, and Nevada Aging and Disability Services are launching a new wandering initiative complete with anti-wandering kits and electronic people-trackers.

“We saw an increase in this and realized something needed to be done,” said Washoe County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff McCaskill. “A lot of times the caregivers didn’t know what was going on.”

Organizers put together thousands of “wandering kits” and have stocked patrol cars with the bags so officers can distribute them to caregivers of people with cognitive disorders when they go out on calls. The kits include an inexpensive door alarm, door knob covers and information so caregivers know how to prevent people from slipping away unnoticed.

They’re also offering bracelets with radio transmitters so police can quickly locate people who are most prone to wander. The devices, manufactured by an Illinois-based company called Care Trak, have been adopted by agencies in other parts of the country, as well as in Humboldt and Douglas counties in Nevada.

“They’re finding out very quickly that an electronic tracking program like Care Trak is a lot less expensive than a traditional search,” said Mike Chylewski, vice president of the company.

While wandering is a problem most everywhere, organizers say it can be especially troublesome in northern Nevada, where wide open spaces and extreme swings in temperature can quickly spell danger for disoriented people.

Northern Nevada is also home to a relatively high number of retirees and about 20,000 people with Alzheimer’s and dementia - most of whom will wander at some point in their life, according to Jacob Harmon, regional director of the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern Nevada.

He said the initiative is a way to connect caregivers with resources they may not have known existed.

“Just because there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do about it,” Harmon said.

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