By MARIA KACIK
BRUNSWICK â€” City residents taking care of loved ones with Alzheimerâ€™s disease, dementia, autism or Downâ€™s syndrome will have a reason to rest easier now that Project Lifesaver is available to residents free of charge.
Project Lifesaver, which has been available in Brunswick since September 2006, is a public safety program offered through the police department to protect and locate missing persons who have wandered away from home. Those being monitored are hooked up to a transmitting device, which helps police find them if they ever wander away.
â€œThe comment we hear when we are leaving the house for the first time (after residents sign up with Project Lifesaver) is â€˜God, I can finally sleep tonight,â€™ â€ said Emil Stecki, coordinator for the Brunswick Citizenâ€™s Police Academy Alumni Association. Stecki and the alumni association originally arranged for Project Lifesaver in the city after Steckiâ€™s close friend used the program after he was afflicted with Alzheimerâ€™s disease.
Previously, residents had to pay $300 to enroll in Project Lifesaver and pay for the transmitting device, which is about the size of a wristwatch and can be worn on the wrist or the ankle. They also had to pay $10 a month to replace the battery.
But that isnâ€™t the case any more and any participants who have paid for the program have been reimbursed, Stecki said.
His group and the Brunswick Police Department were able to provide the program without charge thanks to grants provided by the Alzheimerâ€™s Foundation of America, the Brunswick Eagles, the Medina County Fund, Brunswick Old Fashioned Days, the HANDS Foundation and Chicago-based Central Ink Corp.
Seven police officers, two firefighters and 10 alumni association volunteers are trained in tracking lost individuals through the Project Lifesaver program. And Brunswick officers carry a Project Lifesaver card that helps them identify signs of Alzheimerâ€™s and gives tips on how to deal with those with the disease.
Three families in Brunswick use the program, but Stecki said Project Lifesaver has the ability to serve many more. The city has 16 additional units and can purchase more if needed.
Each month, volunteers with the alumni association visit the homes of those participating in the program to change the battery.
â€œWe talk with the families. They become a part of our family. We have a close relationship with them,â€ Stecki said.
Those interested in the program, can contact police Sgt. Michael Matheis or officer Charlie Webber at 330-725-9111.
To be eligible, Matheis said applicants must be city residents who provide full-time care to the individual in need of Project Lifesaver. They cannot have firearms in their home, and the individual being monitored cannot have access to a car.
Kacik may be reached at 330-721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.