Project Lifesaver Supports Grant Programs that Protect Individuals with Cognitive Conditions Who Wander

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A National Movement to Reduce the Number of Wandering Related Deaths in the Autism and Alzheimer's Communities

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In an effort to shed light on what has become a national health emergency and to reduce the number of wandering-related deaths in the Autism and Alzheimer’s communities, Project Lifesaver has been working with local, State, and National government agencies to establish grant programs.

Project Lifesaver Founder and CEO Gene Saunders said “Today we are working with the states of New York, Minnesota, Wyoming, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Florida on grant programs that will educate the public, train and equip local first responders, and provide support for families and caregivers of individuals with cognitive conditions who are prone to the life threatening symptom of wandering."

Project Lifesaver was the first organization to address the issue of protecting and recovering individuals with cognitive conditions who are prone to wandering and has, over the last 16 years, remained the gold standard.

Project Lifesaver is a 501 (C) (3) community based, public safety, non-profit organization that provides law enforcement, fire/rescue, other first responders and caregivers with equipment and training to quickly locate and rescue individuals with cognitive disorders who are prone to the life threatening behavior of wandering, including those with Alzheimer’s disease, Autism, and Down syndrome. To date Project Lifesaver agencies have conducted over 3,000 successful rescues. Most who wander are found within a few miles from home, and search times have been reduced from hours and days to minutes. Recovery times for Project Lifesaver clients average 30 minutes — 95% less time than standard operations. Nationwide there are over 1,400 Project Lifesaver agencies throughout 48 states and six provinces in Canada.

Project Lifesaver is the most widely used and effective program in the nation that is specifically designed to protect the “At Risk” populations in our communities. Project Lifesaver has trained thousands of public safety agencies, not only in search, rescue and the use of our electronic locating equipment, but also in the methods necessary to communicate with a person who has Alzheimer’s disease, Autism or a related cognitive disorder.

Wandering is an Under-Recognized Life-Threatening Behavior. Just how serious and prevalent is this issue?

One (1) in every sixty eight (68) children is born with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). And according to a Kennedy Krieger Interactive Autism Network study published in the journal Pediatrics half of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are reported to wander or “bolt,” and more than half of these children go missing. According to a recent National Autism Association survey, nearly 92% of parents felt their autistic child was at risk of wandering away and becoming lost.

Today, over 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s, nearly 500,000 in Florida. The 2014 cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in the United States is estimated to total $214 billion. Nearly 60% of people with Alzheimer’s will wander at some point during the progression of the disease, and many will wander repeatedly. According to a study published in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, approximately 46 percent of patients who wander off will die if they are not found within 24 hours.

The task of searching for wandering or lost individuals with Autism, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive conditions has been dramatically growing and is a serious societal problem. Without effective procedures and equipment, searches can involve multiple agencies, hundreds of officers, countless man hours and tens of thousands of dollars. More importantly, because time is of the essence, every minute lost increases the risk of a tragic outcome.

The Project Lifesaver program provides first responders with an understanding of the symptoms and behaviors of the individuals that they are recovering; they know how to approach the individual, gain their trust and put them at ease for the trip home. Project Lifesaver trained certified, and equipped first responders have the tools and training to assess and effectively manage the safe and comfortable return of the “At Risk” individual.

Technology is certainly a major part of the solution to this growing health and safety issue. But the complete solution is the application of a comprehensive state-wide/national program that includes compatible technology and a coordinated training program for law enforcement and other first responders in the areas of search and rescue, search technology, and the conditions, patterns and behaviors of the populations they will be recovering. By having a state-wide/national comprehensive compatible program, when families move city to city, county to county or state to state, their equipment and the search notification/procedures will remain the same. Also, bordering cities, counties, states, and communities will be in a position to support each other during a search and rescue operation.

Project Lifesaver is also a subject matter expert and adviser on the wandering issue for:

  • Leaders Engaged on Alzheimer’s disease (LEAD)
  • National Center for Missing & Exploited Children,
  • International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)
  • Alzheimer’s Foundation
  • National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA)
  • National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners
  • International Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners

For more information or to learn more about Project Lifesaver visit: or contact:

Joseph Salenetri                                                                                    
Assistant Chief, Special Operations                                                    
Project Lifesaver International    


Elizabeth Kappes
Public Relations Coordinator-Special Projects
Project Lifesaver International

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Elizabeth Kappes
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