Onondaga County Undersheriff Warren Darby understands what it's like to see a parent suffer from Alzheimer's disease.
He also knows the trials and tribulations of being a caretaker for another person with a dementia-related illness. But it took the will of one woman, Ruth Boshart, to get the county on track, and now Sheriff Kevin Walsh, a Skaneateles native, is welcoming and giving his support to Project Lifesaver International.
"It is a program that has been around 10 years next month," Darby said to a small group that joined him and Boshart for a presentation on March 10 at the Skaneateles Community Center.
The program works with a transmitter, which is about the size of a watch, that is worn around the wrist of a wanderer -- frequently those with dementia, autism and special needs.
The transmitter gives off a signal and if the wearer should wander away from family, they can call 911 and police will come with special equipment to search. Average rescue time is about 30 minutes, Darby said. Along with ground patrols, the sheriff's department has Air-1 pilots trained for search and rescue using the equipment.
Boshart's husband, Ron, suffers from Lewy Body Dementia, a progressive brain disease that is the second leading cause of degenerative dementia in the elderly, according to the Lewy Body Dementia Association Web site, LBDA.org.
Her husband had no fear and would leave the house or walk away in public without saying a word. Boshart had reached the point of exasperation, she said.
"He could disappear in a heartbeat," she said. "You have no idea the fear and the anxiety that goes through a caregiver."
Boshart tried talking to doctors, dicussed GPS units, cell phones and even contacted Welch Allyn in Skaneateles Falls about existing products they had that might be of some help.