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‘Project Care Track’: New Snohomish County program helping loved ones stay safe

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parellaSNOHOMISH COUNTY — It’s estimated that more than half of people who suffer with dementia or Alzheimers will wander and become lost at some point. But the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Department has created a program that will help all kinds of people stay safe through a tracking device called “Project Care Track.”

Lori Tossey uses  the device for her husband, explaining  “Almost eight years ago, my husband had a massive heart attack and went into cardiac arrest and even though I tried doing CPR, it took almost ten minutes for medical help to come to our house.” Because of the lack of oxygen to his brain, her husband Walt received damage to his frontal lobe and lost his memory. Tossey continues, “In our home, he cannot go from our bedroom to the bathroom and find our bedroom again.”

So Walt wears the tracking device that uses a radio frequency to find someone who may wander from home. The program was launched back in 2001 after a failed search and rescue attempt by the sheriff’s department. Sergeant Danny Wilkstrom says, “It followed Alzheimers search down in South Snohomish County in which we were unable to locate the person involved and that person did die.” But now, the sheriff’s department can track someone wearing the device in about thirty minutes or less. It’s currently being used by about seventy people across the country.

“It was the most terrifying forty-five minutes or half an hour, whatever it was, of my life when she was, cause you don’t even know where to start” says Janet Foley. She signed her 87-year old mother up for Project Care Track after a scary episode last year. Her mother Betty, who suffers from a form of dementia, tries to explain what happened. “I was right in my parents,” she starts. “We were on the cement, wasn’t it?” Betty asks her daughter as she begins to get lost in the story. Janet continues the story saying, “ You had wondered off  that night. You were heating your own dinner up and you got up from your chair to go to the fridge, and you walked past it and you headed to Safeway. And I found you almost to Safeway.”

The next day, Betty got a tracking device from the sheriff’s department and have used it ever since. Still, there are others who use the device, Kimberly Heckman and her son Chauncy were one of the first to sign up for the service. Heckman explains, “I really was nervous about him wondering off, getting lost. He was a little tenacious and liked to go off a little bit. It’s been very reassuring  knowing that we have a program that we can rely on in the event of some sort of an emergency.”

The cost to sin up is about two hundred dollars and fifteen dollars a month after that. The price can stay affordable because the program is run primarily by Snohomish County Search and Rescue volunteers.

“The most important part is that the care giver knows that their loved ones can be found in a reasonably short time with this tracking device,” explains Fred Mack. He is one of the three hundred SAR volunteers, although there is a core group of about forty who handle Project Care Track. It’s an effort by the sheriff’s department, volunteers and family members who want to keep their loved ones safe.

“It’s absolutely priceless, for fifteen dollars a month. People spend more on a cup of coffee than what this is able to give you, Foley added.

The tracking device works within a 1-3 mile radius and currently only five counties offer this type of service. If you would like more information about the program or would like to donate so other families can enjoy this benefit, just log onto SCVSAR.ORG