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ULM’s new “Project FOUND” helps those with Alzheimer’s disease

Published February 24, 2014

Dr. Karen Kopera-Frye, Biedenharn Endowed Chair and professor of gerontology, and Dr. Attapol Kuanliang, associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, have been awarded $250,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice to carry out a two year program titled “Project FOUND” (Fostering Officer and University Networking for Dementia).

Project FOUND will provide support for community-wide education efforts, training of law enforcement and first-responders, and the development of a database, which law enforcement officers can use to help identify missing persons who may wander, and who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

Those who register their loved ones with dementia in Project FOUND will receive a free monitoring bracelet.

The Project is a collaboration among ULM’s departments of gerontology and criminal justice, in addition to the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)—a program within ULM gerontology.


"We are grateful to the U.S. Department of Justice for supporting this significant need in our community," said Kopera-Frye. 

"Project FOUND will begin immediately, and soon we will be asking loved ones to register individuals who suffer from dementia in a nationally recognized MedicAlert and Project Safe Return database through the national Alzheimer’s Association."

Family caregivers can register their loved ones for free by calling ULM’s Department of Gerontology.

According to the national Alzheimer’s Association, six in 10 people with dementia will wander.  If they are not found within 24 hours, the result may be serious injury or even death.

"Thus, time is of the essence with individuals who suffer from dementia and wander—we need to return them safely home as soon as possible," states Kopera-Frye. "What makes this more dangerous is that they may not remember their name, where they live, and they can become disoriented even in familiar places, like the shopping mall."

"By training the local law enforcement personnel on dementia and alerting the loved ones to our missing persons database, the outcome can be positive in terms of safety for these individuals with dementia."  


Dr. Kuanliang will focus on organizing the law enforcement training curriculum on dementia. He explains, "Law enforcement officers and first-responders will be trained about dementia, the nature of the challenging behaviors, and approaches for locating individuals who have gone missing possibly due to wandering."

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will grow as the U.S. population age 65 and older continues to increase.

By 2025, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer's disease is estimated to reach 7.1 million—a 40 percent increase from the five million age 65 years and older currently affected.

Further, an American develops Alzheimer's disease every 68 seconds; by 2050, it is estimated that an individual will develop the disease every 33 seconds.

The Alzheimer’s Association describes the disease as a progressive, degenerative disorder that attacks the brain’s nerve cells, or neurons, resulting in loss of memory, thinking and language skills, and behavioral changes.

Current research from the National Institute on Aging indicates that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years beyond the age of 65.

Primary caregivers of those suffering from Alzheimer’s are asked to call the ULM Gerontology Department at 318-342-1465, or email gero@ulm.edu  for more information or to schedule a registration appointment for the free Alzheimer’s Association Project Safe Return bracelet.