Friday, September 20, 2013
Last summer, great friends from Ireland were visiting in Pennsylvania. At the end of an evening's gathering, Clare, Joe or one of their sons would often wish me "Safe home." What a warm salutation -- for everyone.
Thinking more about the Goodman case from my earlier blog post, one question is whether all options were explored by the police, short of arrest. It is hard to accept that the man's arrest for "loitering" was the only solution available. Here was an individual whose confusion and late night wandering merely led him to the wrong house. In many jurisdictions, including the state in question, the crime charged, loitering, has been held unconstitutional as applied. But however wrong the crime charged in this case, shouldn't there be better options for "safe home?"
At least one option does exist: MedicAlert joined with the Alzheimer's Association to offer "Safe Return," a 24-hour emergency response service for persons with Alzheimer's or other cognitive impairments. The program works in two directions: The worried family member or caregiver can call a toll-free number to report the missing person, providing a source of reliable information for law enforcement about the individual's condition, health concerns and family. Plus, anyone encountering a wanderer who is wearing a MedicAlert bracelet or other ID can call the same toll-free number, thus initiating return to the "safe home."
The MedicAlert+Alzheimer's Association's Safe Return program (names are trademarked) charges an initial fee for the identification jewelry and registration, plus a smaller annual renewal fee. (Any possibility for a lower initial fee for those in need?) Perhaps health care professionals and elder law attorneys could offer this type of information to families during initial appointments.