County Approves Unprecedented Program to Find Missing People with Dementia, Autism

Los Angeles, CA— Today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the Bringing Our Loved Ones Home Initiative, a groundbreaking countywide initiative to help locate individuals with dementia or autism who wander.

Wandering is a common problem associated with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and autism. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 60% of people with dementia will wander at some point while a study by the Interactive Autism Network found that 49% of children with autism will engage in wandering behavior. While the vast majority of these individuals are recovered, wandering cases can end in tragedy.

“Over the course of the last year I have talked to the husbands, wives, parents, and adult children of individuals with autism and dementia who live in constant fear of what might happen if they turn their back for just one minute,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn, who authored the motion. “This program will not only save lives—it will provide peace of mind to caretakers countywide. They will know they are not alone. The County is just as committed to keeping their loved ones safe as they are.”

This Bring Our Loved Ones Home initiative includes establishing a voluntary system of trackable bracelets for at-risk individuals. While the Project Lifesaver bracelet is not under constant monitoring, when an individual wearing a bracelet goes missing, caretakers can inform the Sheriff’s Department who will be able to use helicopter-mounted receivers to locate the missing person. This system is currently being used in Glendale where it boasts a 100% success rate.   Today’s motion instructs the office of the CEO and the Sheriff’s Department to identify $765,000 in one-time costs to purchase Project Lifesaver receiver equipment and develop a marketing plan to inform the public of this program and how to get their loved one enrolled.

“We all hope that we can make a significant impact on the life management issues associated with these vulnerable populations, while providing much needed support for loved ones who must deal with wandering behaviors,” said Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who coauthored the motion.

Supervisor Hahn championed this initiative after helping with the search for Nancy Paulikas, a Manhattan Beach resident who suffers from early-onset Alzheimer’s and has been missing since she wandered away from her family while visiting LACMA in October 2016.

“Unfortunately, people like Nancy, with dementia and people with autism are at great risk of becoming lost or wandering from their caregivers,” said Nancy Paulikas’ husband Kirk Moody. “These vulnerable citizens – an increasing segment of our population – can be swallowed up by the sheer size of the city and overwhelming number of people. I believe that implementing the Task Force’s recommendations will provide a quantum leap improvement in preventing the future losses of vulnerable people; first by reducing the instances of at-risk people wandering, and second, when they do wander, greatly improving the response to help locate them faster.”

In addition to implementing the Project Lifesaver bracelet system countywide, the County will hire a staff of four people responsible for implementing the 17 recommendationsdeveloped by the Bring Our Loved Ones Home Taskforce, a team of experts and county department staff who worked for the past year to develop solutions for the problem of wandering. These recommendations include a new investigational checklist for law enforcement dealing with a missing person’s case, better coordination of Jane and John Doe searches in hospitals, improving community alert systems, and enhanced training for law enforcement and service providers who may come in contact with a wandering person.

“Hopefully what we are doing here today going forward will prevent the kind of heartbreak and suffering that Nancy’s family continues to go through every day,” said Supervisor Hahn.