If your special needs loved one has a history of elopement, what is stopping you from enrolling in Project Lifesaver?

Being a caregiver of an individual with special needs is not easy; I not only understand that through observation, but I have also experienced that first hand while caring for some of my loved ones over the years. The trouble is absolutely worth it, of course, but it is hard! As a caregiver, we care about their well-being and safety, as we would any loved one, but because they do not have the ability to do so for themselves, we have to care even more.

“Am I doing all I can to keep them safe? Is that the right choice to make, and if not what is? What if the decisions I make end up hurting them?” The questions we as caregivers ask ourselves daily. It is tough, sometimes, to make decisions in our own life, never mind making decisions that will influence the life of our loved one who really does not have much of a say, if any. Nevertheless, as a caregiver, it is your job to make those decisions; it is your job to protect your loved ones to the best of your ability.

When it comes to the subject of wandering and home safety, I know a thing or two about how to keep your loved one safe. For those who do not know my background, you may be asking yourself “How? You are just an executive of an organization trying to sell me a product.” A valid point; I am an executive of an organization, but in fact, my goal is not the sale of our product… far from it, actually. My goal, stemmed from decades of experience working in law enforcement and collecting data about special needs wandering, is to ensure the safety and protection of the special needs individuals throughout our communities.

Though you ultimately will know what is best for your loved one and your family, I hope to extend some knowledge to you about Project Lifesaver. I hope that this information will ease your mind about a few popular topics of concern; many of which we have found to be based off misinformed material.

We recently had someone tell us that we are not the only option to protect special needs individuals from wandering, and that they were disappointed in us for implying that we are. “There are plenty of locks and alarms, and methods that work just as well to keep our loved ones safe,” they explained. Absolutely, those are great ways of prevention. We have always stated that wandering prevention is always the first priority; however, we have also learned that prevention (for some, not necessarily all) does not always work. Many of the individuals on the spectrum, or who have another cognitive condition, are very smart and determined; once decided that they want to leave, they will likely find a way to do so. However, Project Lifesaver is not a means of wandering prevention!!!

Our program is designed to help locate special needs individuals if the prevention measures in place fail. Individuals with special needs are among the hardest to locate when they are missing because many are good at evading interaction and hiding from those searching for them; however, in such a situation these individuals are among the most vulnerable. In this circumstance, it is very easy for them to become injured, or their lack of sensing danger could lead them to very hazardous situations, which could then result in a very unfavorable outcome. Locating these individuals in a timely manner is crucial, and that is what our program enables first responders to do: bring them home safely.

We have also heard about privacy concerns preventing a caregiver from enrolling a special needs loved one in our program. We have heard everything from “What if this system is hacked? Then all of my loved one’s personal information, including their exact location will be available to any person” to “Sure, just chip all the special needs individuals like dogs and track their every move.” I have to tell you though, that is not at all how our program works.

When a client is enrolled in our program, officers do collect some information about the individual, such as their description, diagnosis, and wandering habits (if elopement has occurred previously). This information helps first responders identify who they are looking for should they be called on a search, and helps them best understand where the person may have gone, and how best to approach them once found. This information is stored on secure servers within the public safety agency, be that the private database we provide, or one that is already in place with the agency. No other agency, not even Headquarters, has access to that information; unless the home agency shares the information with another agency at the request of the caregiver (this would happen if the family is traveling or potentially moving).

As for the device itself, it is not and cannot be actively monitored; it is only activated when a report comes through that the client is missing. Certified first responders then use specialized equipment to locate the unique frequency signal (only the caregiver and first responders have access to the frequency the client is assigned to) to determine the location of the individual using audible cues. There is no portal that can be logged into that says this person is at this exact location; that is not how the Radio Frequency technology works. Our program is not actually meant to track the location of an individual, but rather help locate them if and only when they wander.

If you still feel like Project Lifesaver is not an option for your family, I fully respect that. The safety of special needs individuals is our main priority, but not one thing works in every situation, so if you have found something that works for you and your family, I am glad. The life you are caring for is precious, as you know, so I would have hated to let you base a possibly life-changing decision on misinformed facts.