Program to help dementia patients during cold weather

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Telma Jeffries is happy her father is safe and sound after a scary Monday afternoon.

“It's like a mother losing her baby,” Jeffries said.

Her father, 70-year-old Charles Jeffries, has Alzheimer's disease and often wanders off, sometimes for hours.

“Your mind is racing,” she said. “You're thinking about all the things that could be happening. He could walk out in the middle of the street and get hit by a car.”

The last time Charles wandered away was Monday when he and his wife were shopping.

Charles went to the bathroom and never returned.

It took 15 minutes to track him down.

"First thing I thought about was the cold,” said Wanda Jeffries, Charles’ wife.

Something Guilford County sheriff’s deputies say can be deadly in freezing temperatures.

“They are going out in ordinary clothes,” Deputy Scott Herndon said. “Clothes that you would wear around the house.”

That's why Telma is considering getting her father a tracking device which allows law enforcement to find people who've wandered off using a receiver.

It's part of Project Life Saver.

Something the sheriff’s office has used for the past seven years.

“They wear this while they're on the program, 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Herndon said.

Herndon says in the brutal cold, families need to keep close watch on loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

“Sometimes we'll find them on the street,” Herndon said.  “Sometimes we'll find them in the woods.”

Even with alarms on the house, a nurse and family who checks on her dad, Telma says it's still hard.

“We try our best to keep an eye on him but it's like having a child,” she said. “If you blink or turn your head, he'll wander off or walk off and you have no idea where he went.”

To qualify for the Project Life Saver program, you have to have a 24-hour care giver and a history of wandering off.

For more information, you can contact the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office at (336) 641-3694.