Electronic Monitoring System Available for Alzheimer’s, Autism, Down Syndrome Residents

McHenry County residents caring for family with Alzheimer’s, Autism and Down Syndrome will have more peace of mind if they get a Dick Tracy-like wrist radio for their loved ones.

Crystal Lake mother Amy Dewar had hoped to be able to attach one of the wrist radios to her 6-year old autistic son Benjamin, but he was having understandable “sensory overload,” because the Open House was a mad house.

“We decided to use a wrist ban for him. He runs any chance he gets,” Dewar explained. “We can’t leave him alone. Usually, when we’re out in public, we have a harness on him,” she said, reflecting that the new system would give her “peace of mind.”

When STAR 105 reporter Stew Cohen asked Dewar how she found about the program, she revealed that she lived across the street from Crystal Lake Policeman Sean McGrath of Operation Click fame.

Announced by Dr. Robert Belter at the grand opening Good Shepherd Hospital’s new Crystal Lake Intermediate Care facility across from the Pingree Road Metra Station, the “Care Trak” system allows police to search for lost seniors and children.

It’s “an advanced wireless tracking technology that will serve as a safety net for families and caregivers of loved ones,” according to the Good Shepherd press release.

McGrath said the cost of the wrist radio is $264.

“Good Shepherd realized that one of the things keeping these communities from deploying this state-of-the-art technology…was simply resources and funding,” Alqonquin pediatric specialist Belter said.

As a result, Advocate Good Shepherd has contributed the $15,000 for the tracking equipment. The McHenry County Mental Health Board has earmarked $5,000, Autumn Leaves, a memory care facility in Huntley has donated $1,000. Other contributions are expected from the Crystal Lake Dawn Breakers Rotary Club and Bickford, a memory care facility about to open in Crystal Lake.

“It’s a sad, but accurate, statistic that if someone with Autism or Alzheimer’s is not located within 24 hours, their chances of survival is cut in half,” Dr. Belter revealed.

Spurring local consideration of the tracking system was Huntley Republican precinct committeeman Linda Moore. With a father-in-law who might need the device, Moore inquired about the possibility in McHenry County.

She found that the idea had been rejected as not workable about four years ago, but with additional information, a coalition of law enforcement, Family Alliance, two local autism groups–the McHenry Autism Group and Talk About Curing Autism—a plan was being activated after just a few months of discussion.

Family Alliance’s Dena White, a transplant from Maryland like me, told how “one of our elderly (Maryland) group home residents walked out in winter and unfortunately she died of hypothermia.”

Had she been wearing one of the wrist radios that probably would not have happened.

Family Alliance (815-338-3590) has agreed to coordinate logistics.

“The police were really the force behind it,” Crystal Lake’s Katherine Christensen, a member of the McHenry Autism Group, told me.

Appearing with Good Shepherd Medical Director Belter was McHenry County Sheriff Keith Nygren, Huntley Police Chief John Perkins and Crystal Lake’s Deputy Police Chief Dennis Harris.

“Good Shepherd stood up and kind of hit a home run,” Sheriff Nygren proclaimed. “It’ll allow us to more efficiently locate people.

“This is the kind of program that could save lives,” he continued. “Everyone could potentially benefit from this program.

“It’s the neediest group in McHenry County who will benefit from this program.”

Later he showed me a “Missing Person” flyer for Johnsburg’s Edward Sylvio Demers. Born the same year I was he “was last seen (October 13, 2003) going for a walk near Bay Rd. in Johnsburg, IL. He suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.” (In the picture you can see Nygren showing the poster to Linda Moore, whose precinct includes a large part of McHenry County’s Sun City.)

“I’m a caregiver,” Moore told me. “I’ve never seen agencies work together in such a short period.”

The working group went by the acronym LEANN. That stands for Law Enforcement and Autism and Alzheimer Notification.

“At least half of the patients we care for live in McHenry County and more than half of our associates reside in McHenry County, so we saw Care Trak as a terrific opportunity to serve others, but also the right thing to do,” Dr. Belter pointed out.

“Our mission is about doing good for others, and this announcement today represents an opportunity to do good by keeping healthy and out of the hospital in the first place.”

Naperville is the only other Chicagoland community utilizing Care Trak, based in Murphysboro, Illinois.

Care Trak technical teams will arrive in October to train law enforcement in use of the systems. Total deployment is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Although the headline for the day will have to go to Good Shepherd’s contribution and the wrist radio program’s initiation, the real reason for the Open House was the introduction of Good Shepherd’s Intermediate Care offices.

“A number of years ago, the hospital recognized a need in Crystal Lake for immediate care that’s provided by veteran ER physicians, the kind of emergency medicine specialists not found at similar sites of care in the area,” Dr. Belter explained.

“And, that’s the hospital-level of care you’ll find in this new facility.”

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