From The Program Director
Safety. Every day I am reminded of how vulnerable a person with dementia can be. The
disease affects every area of thinking, judgment and daily functioning. Because the disease
progresses, situations that are not of concern today may become potential safety issues in the
Each year we receive approximately 300 reports of wandering, missing and found New Yorkers.
Twenty years ago, I developed a wanderer’s safety program, which became the prototype for our
current MedicAlert + Safe Return Program. Originally, we created this program as a result of
one person with dementia who never returned from tutoring a student in the Morningside
neighborhood of Manhattan. He was found many days later, deceased, near the little red light
house under the GW Bridge.
As of today, we have over 14,000 people enrolled in the program — and recently we were
delighted to receive a check for $25,000 from State Senator Jeffrey Klein of the 34th district in
the Bronx to support outreach for MedicAlert + Safe Return.
We’ve come a long way. However, wandering is only part of the story. There are so many
other areas where a person with dementia is at risk:
The bathroom and kitchen are particularly dangerous. One person with dementia drank
dishwashing detergent and suffered esophageal burns — his wife and daughter never thought
that a common household product could be so dangerous. Medications, vitamins and spices
should be locked away. Gas stoves and microwaves can be a danger. Toxic plants and decorative
fruits may be mistaken for real food. Firearms should be removed from the home or kept in a
locked secure place, separate from ammunition.
Driving can also be a dangerous activity when the person with dementia no longer has the
reflexes, the ability to multi-task or respond to unpredictable situations. The American Academy
of Neurology recently released new driving guidelines for those with dementia. This subject is so sensitive and important that it requires special attention and information,
which you can find on our website www.alz.org/nyc or by calling our 24 hour helpline
In addition to physical safety, it is important for persons with dementia and their family
members to feel emotionally safe. Our free information, education and support programs can
help caregivers keep the person with dementia safe and enable everyone to be more relaxed, less
anxious and less overwhelmed. As one member of our Family Caregiver Workshops wrote to us:
“I came to the course a little interested, a little apprehensive, and very curious. I left the course
more confident, more knowledgeable, with more understanding and acceptance of the disease.
Thank you for saving my life.”
We can help you find your way through this difficult journey. Visit our Web site
alznyc.org/SafeReturn to learn more about the hidden dangers. See the article by Rosemary
Bakker. Call us
at 800-272-3900 or visit our website www.alz.org/nyc. All of our
services are free of charge.
— Jed Levine
Executive Vice President,
Director of Programs & Services