August 27, 2009
Dear Ms. Cleveland:
On behalf of the Board and staff of the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter, thank you for your consideration for a grant to fund a new initiative targeted to educate and assist an underserved population of Georgia. The mission of the Alzheimer’s Association is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research and promotion of brain health, coupled with our ability to enhance care and support for all individuals, their families, and caregivers. This entails uncovering a solution to the most challenging issue confronting caregivers—a widespread wandering problem associated with people suffering from the early to mid stages of Alzheimer’s disease. An estimated 70 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease wander. With 200,000 Georgians troubled by Alzheimer’s, the need to equip these individuals with services to ensure their safety is extreme.
The Alzheimer’s Association works round the clock to locate wanderers. From the onset we counsel families on contacting local police and filing missing person’s reports, while simultaneously working with each family, discerning the wanderer’s potential destination. Along with police assistance, we provide search and rescue training to personnel. Last year, our Chapter held 139 training programs, and educated 2,556 law enforcement workers. Statistically if a wanderer is not found within 24 hours, injury or death increases by 50 percent. Based on this data, our priority has become training law enforcement to find missing people within this 24 hour window.
Solutions such as Medic Alert coupled with Safe Return have proved effective strategies for finding wanderers. Last year, our Chapter provided 296 scholarships for this program at a cost of $80 each. Currently there are 3,267 patients enrolled in this program statewide. With the increasing number of Georgians diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, there is an acute need for increased enrollment. Financially, these individuals can not enroll without our assistance. Our capacity to aid individuals provides fundamental security for families, however; we lack funds to grant scholarships to the outstanding patients.
When patients are located, the Alzheimer’s Association continues to aid in the recovery process. Georgia however has no protocol when a cognitively impaired individual is found. This is an additional hurdle for our Association Staff, who work diligently with police to find emergency placement, while simultaneously locating the family to coordinate a safe return. Due to insufficient funds, the Association more often scrambles for placement of these individuals until they are returned safely to their home.
The Alzheimer’s Association is working tirelessly to address the dangers of wandering. We are concerned about controlling this issue due to the number of deaths in the past year coupled with the increased number of persons currently missing. Several factors need to be addressed for wandering to become more manageable.
Initially, enrollment needs to increase in our Medic Alert/Safe Return programs that have historically been avoided due to family financial instability. Therefore, scholarship dollars require accessibility to provide these programs to caregivers at no cost.
Next, it is essential that we continue training law enforcement about Alzheimer’s disease and tracking wanderers. Even though we were able to host 139 trainings last year, there are approximately 884 police jurisdictions in need of training throughout the state. At this time we do not have adequate staff funding to tackle more than 150 trainings per year. However, in the future we aspire to enhance our staff to increase education to all police jurisdictions in Georgia. Our Chapter is starting a new FBI training initiative by working closely with a retired FBI agent in an effort to initiate a program to recruit retired FBI agents to assist with Medic Alert/Safe Return. These FBI agents will be trained to assist police with search and rescue efforts, and inevitably the Chapter will be able to utilize them to train police jurisdictions throughout the state. Since our greatest challenge in training law enforcement lies in insufficient staff, this is a key missing link to establishing an educated statewide police force.
Finally, an emergency placement protocol must be established. Funds are needed to place these individuals until they are safely with their family. The majority of wanderers are taken care of and placed back in their homes by Caregivers. However, we estimate that this year, there will be approximately 10 nights of placement needed.
The Alzheimer’s Association is seeking financial support of initiatives to help those with dementia who are at high risk of wandering and to safely return those who have wandered. The costs for these initiatives are estimated below based on an annual need:
Training Initiative = $40,000
Medic Alert Safe Return Enrollment:
600 @ $80 for initial enrollment = $48,000
400 @ $25 for annual renewal fee = $10,000
10 nights @ $150 = $1,500
Total Current Amount Needed: $99,500
Vice President of Development