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For families of patients with Alzheimer’s, high-tech gadgets may keep loved ones from wandering

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. - It`s a disease that currently affects more than five-million people in the United States. Alzheimer`s Disease slowly steals someone`s mind and memories.

According to the Alzheimer`s Association, six in 10 people with the disease will wander at some point. For family members of these patients, that statistic is terrifying, knowing that those with the disease won`t be able to find their way back.

So who`s watching? And can technology be the caretaker`s helper?

“Life was really good, we lived in the old neighborhood that I grew up in,” said Patti Griffith.

Griffith and her husband, Ed, have been married 47 years. Ed was a civil engineer with a master`s degree. Then Ed started to forget.

“Horrible things that you think he`ll never forget- he forgets,” said Patti.

Patti struggled with caring for her beloved husband who had early-onset Alzheimer's. To make matters worse, he started wandering outside of the house.

“He got out of the yard and he was four blocks from home and I didn`t have a clue,” said Patti.

They tried door alarms, but Ed tore them off, Patti knew it was time to take him to a memory care home at the Villages of Jackson Creek in Independence.

“This is a wonderful place, it`s been a blessing for our family,” said Patti.

Dr. Jeffrey Burns, the Co-Director of the KU Alzheimer’s Disease Center, says it`s common for people with Alzheimer`s to leave or try to leave the house. The biggest issue, though, is getting home.

“It`s a combination of a restlessness that people with a subset of Alzheimer’s develop and this tendency to wander, combined with difficulty in getting back home, not being able to get back home,” said Dr. Burns.

This is especially difficult, he says, as the disease progresses, so he encourages caregivers to find ways to keep their loved ones safe. There are a number of devices available for those who want to keep their loved ones at home.

“Music is tied to the emotion centers of the brain and so music helps them reminisce a little better than they can without the music,” said Robin McCain, Owner of Evergreen Home Companion.

McCain says keeping someone with Alzheimer`s mentally engaged is key, but so is preventing someone with Alzheimer’s from being able to leave home. There are a number of devices to do that as well.

But without the technology or around the clock in-home help, caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's can be overwhelming, and Patti says don`t hesitate to turn to someone for help.

“Don`t wait. There`s help. You`ve just gotta be girl enough to say I need the help,” said Patti.

There is a bill in progress in the state of Missouri to try to make a Silver Alert protocol. Right now in Missouri- there is either an Amber Alert or Endangered Person Alert.

Click here for an example of the Silver Alert & Medical Emergency Information Form

Kansas has a Silver Alert protocol.

To find some of the gadgets shown in the story, click on this link.

To find out more information about Alzheimer’s, click on this link.

An example of a Silver Alert Information Form currently available in Kansas can be found at this link.