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Officials consider elderly tracking system


Dianna Henry has been missing for more than a month.

The 64-year-old Corydon woman – who has been diagnosed with dementia – walked away from her residence on J Gibson Road around 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 27.

Rescue crews launched an extensive search for the woman, but after 48-hours and after exhausting all resources, they were forced to suspend the search.

Henry’s disappearance and the likelihood that other infirm people might find themselves in the same circumstances has prompted county officials and emergency responders to research the benefits of a tracking system that would lead rescue teams right to the missing person.

“With the latest disappearance, the fiscal court has talked about this, and the direction we need to go in is some kind of tracking system,” said Henderson County Judge-executive Sandy Watkins.

Watkins said the research has shown that in over 1,600 cases where these systems were utilized, missing people were found alive 100 percent of the time and within minutes of their disappearances.

Here’s how it works.

According to information provided to The Gleaner of Henderson, the tracking system is such that a client wears a transmitter either as a wrist bracelet or ankle bracelet.

“Search and rescue crews use a directional antenna and receiver after tuning in the frequency number of the transmitter” to track the person, the data said. “Tracking can be done by air, vehicle or on foot.”

Bryant Woodard, chief of the Henderson City-County Rescue Squad, said with these tracking systems, the average search lasts about 22 minutes.

Woodard said the formal search for Henry lasted 48 hours. He said this doesn’t include the number of hours put into the follow up searches which have been conducted since then.

Having a tracking system, Woodard said, would “save man hours for a search and the number of people” involved in a search, not to mention that the system would save lives.

Looking at things from a financial standpoint, Watkins said, the search for Henry cost between $40,000 and $50,000, due to the supplies, equipment and fuel needed.

A tracking system would cost the county around $8,000.

“When you compare that cost to the startup cost of the (tracking system), it’s pennies,” Watkins said.

Tracking systems are currently being used in nearby counties, Woodard said.

“There’s an Alzheimer’s support group that meets at Red Banks nursing home,” he said. “When we get this system, I’m going to attend that meeting and show them what’s available.”

For those who decide they want to be attached to such a system, Woodard said, “We would go once a month to (the client’s) home and change the wrist or ankle band and the battery. We would speak to the caregiver and find out if (the client’s) personality has changed” or if they are doing things out of the ordinary.

“This gives us a heads-up to a person’s behavior and also helps caregivers to watch for subtle changes,” Woodard said. “We can have a profile of these people on hand so if they do get lost, we’ll already have this information.”

“We are just now looking at what’s out there,” Watkins said. “And we haven’t determined what the cost would be for the family.”

“If families could have a little bit of security,” Watkins said, “and if county government could provide that, we should do this.”

Woodard said Henry’s case will remain open until she is found.

Henry was last seen wearing blue jeans, a white fleece jacket, blue gloves and white shoes.

She is 5 feet 4 inches tall, has a thin build and a fair complexion, with gray and brown shoulder length hair.

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