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Ontario launches Alzheimer's safety campaign

Elizabeth Allen (left), who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, sits in her Toronto home with her husband Bob on Dec. 20, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

The government of Ontario has launched an Alzheimer’s safety program aimed at people with dementia from different ethnic backgrounds.

The Finding Your Way campaign, a wandering prevention program, was unveiled at the Ralph Thornton Community Centre on Wednesday in Toronto’s east end. It includes multilingual public service announcements on television, radio, in print and online as well as safety kits for caregivers and relatives.

The Alzheimer Society of Ontario said that three out of five people with dementia go missing at some point, often without warning.

“Because we know dementia doesn’t discriminate, we’re launching  this public service campaign not only in English and in French, but  also in Mandarin, Cantonese and Punjabi,” Gale Carey, CEO of the Alzheimer  Society of Ontario, said in a statement.

Keith Harvey said his wife Mary will be helped by the campaign, as she’s wondered off “a few times.” One morning, he woke up and she wasn’t there.

“It’s unusual because I’m the early riser…it’s scary,” Harvey told CityNews at the community centre.

“As the disease progresses, you use various devices, like alarming the doors and using a door stop. But it’s a numbing, scary thing.”

The Finding Your Way campaign also includes a safety kit to help caregivers and other family members prepare for such incidents, and provide the information that caregivers need to provide to police.

“When people with dementia go missing, the police view it as an emergency. Time is a factor, and the identification information contained within the Finding Your Way kits is exactly the kind of information that police need to speed up the search process,” Brent Thomlison of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police said.

Nearly 200,000 Ontarians have dementia, an increase of 16 per cent over the past four years, the government said, and that number is expected to climb to 250,000 by 2020.

Click here for more information on the Finding Your Way safety kit.