Finding out a loved one has dementia can be devastating. One of the biggest worries is that they will wander off. A new program just debuted in Cuyahoga Falls, aiming to ease those fears.
Cuyahoga Falls resident John Harrow’s mother, Rose, turns 93 this Sunday. She is also one of more than five million Americans living with dementia. Harrow is her primary caregiver and was excited to learn about the MedicAlert program now being offered free of charge in his city.
“I think it'll add a little bit of peace of mind, knowing that if something does happen, that there is an escape hatch, if you will, that that information can be readily available and the loved ones reunited with their families,” Harrow said.
Any resident can go online or to the police station and register their loved one -- whether they have Alzheimer's, Autism or any other condition that puts them at risk for wandering off. Simply put in their medical and emergency contact information, and they will receive a bracelet or pendant in the mail with all of that vital information on it.
“Right now, we would do a search and if we find someone that's wandered, we hope they have ID,” explained Mayor Don Walters. “They don't always have that. We're not sure where they belong.”
Mayor Walters says Cuyahoga Falls is the first city in the state to offer this program at no cost. It is funded through the Department of Justice, in partnership with MedicAlert and the Alzheimer's Association Greater East Ohio Chapter.
“Say they drive out of the jurisdiction or even out of state sometimes happens,” said Police Chief Jack Davis. “They get out of their vehicle and maybe they can't tell somebody where they're from, they didn't bring any ID or anything with them. By having the bracelet on, they'll be able to contact an 800 number, find out where they belong, have emergency contacts and if they have any medical conditions, make sure they know how to treat them.”
Carolyn Stroud was a caregiver to her mother for 18 years.
“She couldn't remember anything,” she explained. “Her driving, she got lost.”
Stroud runs an Alzheimer's support group through the Alzheimer's Association Greater East Ohio Chapter and says she hopes the program will catch on, and spread beyond Cuyahoga Falls.
“If you have the opportunity to get some measure in place to give your loved ones safety and give you maybe a little bit of peace of mind, take advantage of it,” Stroud said.
More than 13,000 people in Summit County have Alzheimer's or some kind of dementia.
Anyone interested in the program should contact the Cuyahoga Falls Police Department at 330-971-8333. Forms are also available online by visiting the City of Cuyahoga Falls website.