ELIZABETHTON — Linda and Carroll Wiseman received an unusual but vitally important gift on their 45th wedding anniversary Friday.
Shortly before lunch, Carter County Sheriff Chris Mathes and several members of the Seniors and Law Enforcement Together (SALT) Council paid a visit on the Wisemans at their home. As they gathered in the living room, Mathes placed a plastic wristband on Carroll’s wrist. The wristband was attached to a small personal transmitter that sends a signal that the sheriff’s department can pick up a mile away.
Carroll, known to his friends as “Shorty,” suffers from dementia and has wandered away from his home in the past.
The wristband, part of the Project Lifesaver program, is designed to help trained law enforcement personnel track down a wandering person and bring them safely home.
“I feel like a burden has been lifted from my shoulders,” Linda said when the wristband was placed on Shorty. “He has gotten away several times, but we are blessed with good neighbors who have always stopped and picked him up and brought him back. ... No matter how good you lock your doors, he has a way of getting out.”
The Project Lifesaver transmitter Shorty wears emits an individualized tracking signal that can be picked up by a special antenna. Project Lifesaver says in most cases the wanderers are found within 30 minutes of the caretaker’s alert, reducing the average search time from many hours or days and greatly improving the chance of returning the wanderer home safely.
Peter Voight, a SALT Council member, said it is important to find a wanderer rapidly, because the chance of the disappearance becoming a fatal incident rise dramatically with each passing hour.
Kim Howell, community relations director for Home Instead, said the transmitters are not just for elderly victims of dementia. She said it can be effective for people of all ages with such problems as Down Syndrome.
Mathes said Shorty is the first person in Carter County to receive one of the transmitters since the sheriff’s department received a $4,000 grant from Project Lifesaver to purchase two transmitters, the antennas and other equipment. Home Instead senior care provided a $500 grant for the officers’ training to use the tracking system.
The transmitters are a joint effort of the sheriff’s department and the council.
Mathes said he was pleased Shorty became the first person to receive a transmitter in Carter County. Shortly is well known for his many years of service as maintenance supervisor at the Carter County Courthouse. He said Shorty became a candidate when his wife heard about the council’s effort and made an inquiry.
“My wife takes good care of me,” Shorty said to those who had gathered in his living room for the special occasion.
Mathes said there is still one more transmitter purchased with the grant money. He said the SALT Council is looking for a candidate. He said inquiries may be made at the Elizabethton/Carter County Senior Citizens Center at 543-4362.
Mathes said any church or community group that would like to sponsor a transmitter for an individual in their group are also welcome to make inquiries. He said the transmitters cost $300 and the batteries are $25.