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MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return® Saves Lives

MedicAlert logoThe Alzheimer’s Association and the MedicAlert Foundation have created an alliance to bring you MedicAlert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®. This partnership offers you the best of both worlds:

  • Assistance when a person wanders or is lost
  • Access to vital medical information in the time of need

Safe at home

Alzheimer’s disease causes millions of Americans to lose their ability to recognize familiar places and faces. Six in 10 people with Alzheimer’s disease will wander. Many people become unable to remember their name or address. They may become disoriented and lost, even in their own neighborhood. Although common, wandering can be dangerous – even life-threatening.

Desperate to find her father, Maria spent 16 agonizing hours each day searching for him. During that timeWe are working to help save lives through MedicAlert+ Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return, a 24-hour nationwide emergency response service for individuals with Alzheimer's or related dementia that wander or who have a medical emergency. With more than 60,000 in Orange County affected by Alzheimer’s or related memory loss disorders, as many as 36,000 wandering incidents are likely to occur each year. Currently, fewer than 5% are enrolled in MedicAlert + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return. A study conducted by National Search and Rescue concluded that 50% of all wanderers not found within a 24-hour period will not be found alive.

When Andre’s body was finally discovered on a coyote trail just 10 feet from a path that would have taken him home, Maria struggled with law enforcement to see him—finally submitting to the humiliation of a DNA test before permission was granted. “I had to fight to even see and identify my father,” Maria shared, the torment still evident in her voice. “No one should have to go through this,” Maria said, “Just the thought of it happening to anyone else makes me feel like I’m going through it again. If we had known about Safe Return, we would have enrolled him and we would have had that network to help us, to support us, to advocate for us.”

“It’s appalling to think of how many at-risk elders are not registered (with Safe Return)…there is no other infrastructure that can truly support or aid in the safe return of at-risk and even borderline at-risk elders.” Maria is convinced that Andre became dehydrated which contributed to his disorientation—and ultimately to his death. Through tears, she reasoned it aloud, “Dad grew physically weak. He laid down to rest and he never got up.”

Our MedicAlert + Safe Return program works to return lost or separated individuals to their families through pre-registration of personalized information kept in a national data bank synched to a registration number worn on a bracelet. When the individual with Alzheimer’s is missing, a single phone call to our 24/7 Helpline activates a nationwide network including all 79 Alzheimer’s Association chapters, local law enforcement and first responders. When the missing person is found, a citizen or law official calls the toll-free number on the ID bracelet which results in a call to the listed contacts.

Nearly 99% of persons enrolled in the MedicAlert + Safe Return Program are found within 24 hours of their disappearance.

How the program works:

If an individual with Alzheimer's or a related dementia wanders and becomes lost, caregivers can call the 24-hour emergency response line (1.800.625.3780) to report it.

A community support network will be activated, including local Alzheimer Association chapters and law enforcement agencies, to help reunite the person who wandered with the caregiver or a family member. With this service, critical medical information will be provided to emergency responders when needed.

If a citizen or emergency personnel finds the person with dementia, they can call the toll-free number listed on person's MedicAlert + Safe Return ID jewelry. MedicAlert + Safe Return will notify the listed contacts, making sure the person is returned home.

In time of crisis or emergency situations:

"I have a personal interest in helping people with dementia and their families and can only begin to imagine the additional chaos that their lives must now be in. To think of the added confusion to the lives of the already confused…the inability to begin to comprehend what has happened breaks my heart. The strain on staff that have their own losses to cope with must be indescribable." A caregiver

logoParticularly in times of crisis, those with dementia can become easily disoriented, distracted and agitated. The wandering behaviors that can result may be dangerous - even life threatening. The stress can weigh heavily on caregivers and family. It is comforting to know that 89% of persons enrolled in MedicAlert + Safe Return are found within 4 hours of their disappearance and 98.9% of persons enrolled are found within 24 hours of their disappearance. It is even more comforting to know that there is a nearly 100% return rate for those persons with dementia enrolled in the MedicAlert + Safe Return Program.

As a direct result of our efforts to develop and implement a training program for care providers, law enforcement and disaster volunteers, AAOC was pleased to receive the 2007 Orange County Red Cross “Award for Excellence in Disaster Preparedness."

My 68 year-old husband has Alzheimer's, diagnosed 6 years ago, is still highly functioning, but any deviation from his normal schedule throws him into frustration and almost a panic. Just to move him into an unfamiliar place would have been bad. He would never be able to comprehend what was going on and crowds scare him into panic unless he's hanging on to me tightly. To just get him to understand what he needed to do and to do it quickly would be nearly impossible.

Families and others providing care for people with dementia cannot know when an emergency will displace a person with dementia or when a wandering might occur, but through your support underwriting our MedicAlert + Safe Return program, they’ll know where to turn for help when it does. No one can predict when someone with Alzheimer's disease or dementia will wander; take preventative measures as soon as possible. Learn more about our MedicAlert + Safe Return nationwide identification program by calling our 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900 Disasters and Emergencies.

Are you prepared for an emergency or disaster?

People with Alzheimer's disease and memory impairment are particularly vulnerable and can easily become separated from loved ones and caregivers during an emergency or disaster. During Hurricane Katrina, people with memory loss were found wandering in emergency areas without identification, unable to assist health care workers and volunteers in reuniting them with loved ones. Some were sent to hospitals, only to be released hours later to again wander the streets. Others were restrained to prevent them from hurting themselves or others.

The frightening and unnecessary trauma they and their families experienced could have been abated by enrollment in our MedicAlert + Safe Return. Care Facilities are encouraged to make MedicAlert + Safe Return part of their Disaster and Mass Casualty Plan by enrolling their residents now and including MedicAlert + Safe Return as part of their admission process.

RCFE Disaster and Mass Casualty Plan Title 22, Section 87223, b) (E) "Supervision of residents during an evacuation or relocation and contact after relocation to assure that relocation has been completed as planned". In order to ensure the safety of residents during an evacuation or relocation, upon admission to the facility, each resident with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or a related disorder where there is memory impairment will be enrolled in the Alzheimer's Association's MedicAlert + Safe Return program.

This enrollment will include a photo of the resident, any identifying information, how to contact next of kin and a bracelet or necklace that the resident will wear that will identify them as a member of this registry. In the event that the whereabouts of a resident becomes unknown to staff during evacuation, a member of the staff will contact the MedicAlert + Safe Return at 800.572.1122. To be listed on this web site as a participating facility, call our 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.

We are proud to recognize these participating facilities:

Guardian Angels Homes I
Guardian Angels Homes II
Guardian Angels Homes III
Guardian Angels Homes IV


Alzheimer's Association

Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's
Formed in 1980, the Alzheimer's Association is the world's leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer's care, support and research.