Volunteer Spotlight

Meet Tom Oliver

Volunteer Coordinator

Find Me safe Network

Project Lifesaver

Let’s get to know Tom & Project Lifesaver:

What do you do here at Dementia Support Northwest?

“I manage Project Lifesaver, and anything else that is needed really.”

How did you get involved with DSNW?

“In 2007 the Sheriff’s Department was asking for search and rescue to train for Project Lifesaver. After my time in the Navy (20 years) I got into search and rescue. I got vetted by the Sheriff’s office. I was in the first group of those search and rescue to train for Project Lifesaver. About ten years ago I had to come into the Alzheimer Society of Washington’s office to bring up some batteries for their Project Lifesaver bracelets and got recruited and have been here ever since. It kind of became my baby”.

How would you describe Project Lifesaver?

“It’s a locating device that can be worn on the wrist or ankle and has to be cut off to be removed. The device itself is a radio transmitter that is run by battery that lasts about 2 months”.

What is the cost and how does someone go about utilizing this service?

“A donor has donated the bracelets so the only fee to the user is $45 a quarter”.

Are there any available now here at DSNW?

“Yes, there are a few that are available right now”.

When should someone look into Project Lifesaver or a similar program?

” I suppose at any point there is confusion about getting back after going out somewhere, or the first time they wander, but really before that”.

What do you suggest that people do that aren’t local but could benefit from something like this?

“Contact their local Police or Sheriff”.

How is Project Lifesaver different from other locating systems?

“PLS is a radio transmitter, not a GPS.  GPS or Cell locators can face challenges and don’t always work in mountains, thick forest, culverts, certain buildings, or in water. Project Lifesaver works in these situations due to the radio transmission. With PLS if someone is in a culvert it will take the signal to either end of it. We think it is the best choice for a mixed rural/urban environment.”

So what is the process from start to finish?

“They would contact me by calling or emailing the office. After filling out an application I would get in contact with them, to talk to the caregiver to get a feel for the situation and if it’s a good fit I would put the bracelet on the individual”.

Can people still travel while wearing PLS, if so, any tips for that?

“Yes, they should take a copy of their paperwork with them because it has all the needed information such as the transmitter number on it so IF the law enforcement at their destination has PLS they can late them with it “.

What happens if you are met with resistance by the individual that is supposed to wear the bracelet?

“We always try and I have had some experience with finding ways to persuade them to allow it to be put on”.

Anything else?

Volunteers are always welcome; they must pass a background check. I am more than happy to come speak about Project Lifesaver upon request.

A note from Dementia Support Northwest:

Project Lifesaver is designed to provide a safety net for the most vulnerable citizens in our community.  The tendency to wander is prevalent among people with dementia. Traditional search methods rely heavily on the ability of the lost to respond to the searchers when they call. If a person is unable or chooses not to respond to searchers, concern for their well-being is increased.

If an elderly person with dementia is outdoors for more than 24 hours, their chance of survival drops to 50% due to exposure.