Program protects patients with history of wandering

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - It was a hot summer day when Valerie White's father wandered out of a West Ashley store.

"I was trying on a pair of shoes for [my son] and I reached down to check the sizing, and by the time I stood up -- which I'm telling you was only a moment, Dad had walked off," White says of her father, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

The 77-year-old had walked close to two miles down a busy road before he was noticed by a passer-by.

The Whites then enrolled him in Project Lifesaver through the Charleston County Sheriff's Department.   The program provides a tracking bracelet to qualified applicants.  The bracelet consists of a transmitter that constantly emits a frequency.  If a client wanders away, they can be located by the sponsoring agency by pinpointing the transmitter.

"Sometimes, it takes hours to look for them without the transmitter," Senior Sergeant Naomi Morris says.  "Now with the transmitter, we're able to find them within 30 minutes -- which makes a difference when you're talking about the seriousness of the weather."

White's father has not wandered off since enrolling in Project Lifesaver.   But she credits the program with allowing her father to maintain his independence at home, instead of an assisted-living facility.

"We'd like to think that he's in his home in a loving environment surrounded by what's important to him," she says.

Project Lifesaver is an international program.  There are 13 agencies in South Carolina that provide the service.  To find a participating agency, visit

Applicants must be an "at-risk wanderer."  Many clients have a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, Down syndrome, autism or dementia.

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