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31st Aug


Bracelets will help Alzheimer’s patients

As a caregiver for his wife, Debbie, Rich Gardner already had been dealing with Alzheimer’s disease firsthand for several years when he heard about the death of Ricardo Nava-Alamo.
Nava-Alamo, a 62-year-old Moreno Valley resident with Alzheimer’s, left home and was missing for nearly a month when his car, and then his body, were found in late January in Blythe.
Hoping to help prevent such tragedies, Gardner started lobbying city officials in Riverside, where he lives.
Six months later, Riverside police are preparing to roll out the Get Home Safe program and credit Gardner with spurring them to action.
Through the program, which officially will launch in October, police are offering a free medical ID bracelet for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Patients’ families or caregivers enter information such as a current photo, emergency contacts and medical details into a database. Then anyone who finds the patient wandering can call a phone number or scan a code on the bracelet with a smartphone to learn who the patient is, where he lives and whom to notify.
Riverside police Sgt. Charles Payne, who developed the program, said there were two key goals: Make it widely available and effective, yet sensitive to privacy concerns.
The first idea was to create a police database of Alzheimer’s patients, but officials thought some people might balk at giving the government personal information about a loved one and that it would work only if someone reported the patient missing, Payne said. Bracelets with GPS or another locator device are too costly to buy and maintain, he said.
Instead, Riverside will use low-cost ID bracelets from ENDEVR, a Utah company that provides them for extreme athletes. The bracelets don’t require batteries. The company maintains the database, and families can choose what information to include and change or delete it.
Gardner said Debbie, who died in June, never wandered, but he’s met many people in caregiver support groups who faced that concern and could be helped by a program like Riverside’s.
“The bottom line is that this will save lives,” he said. “I hope it’s the start of something big nationally.”
Programs like Get Home Safe are not yet widespread in the Inland area. Police in Hemet and Palm Springs have their own versions, and the Alzheimer’s Association also offers several programs. But Jean Dickinson, vice president of marketing for the association’s California Southland chapter, said such programs will become increasingly important as the nation’s population ages.
“Increasing awareness is critical right now because as the Baby Boomer generation ages, they enter the age that is at the greatest risk for developing Alzheimer’s,” Dickinson said.
In 2014, an estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is expected to nearly triple by 2050, according to the association’s statistics. Riverside officials project more than 4,400 residents may have some form of dementia.
With grants from Kaiser Permanente, Riverside Community Health Foundation and the Riverside Police Officers’ Association, Riverside hopes to start by enrolling about 300 people in Get Home Safe. Payne said it could later be expanded to include people with developmental disabilities, traumatic brain injury or other impairments.
Gardner is gratified to see Riverside launch its program, but he’s not satisfied. He’s encouraging the Riverside City College and Cal Baptist University nursing schools to teach more about Alzheimer’s, and he’d like to get local business students to design an advertising campaign as a school project.
“Why not have them try to sell something no one wants to talk about?” he said. “This is obviously a disease that’s affected a lot of people, but there’s still that stigma that we don’t want to discuss it.”

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