A Jinan man designs clothes to help missing Alzheimer’s patients

A Jinan man designs clothes to help missing Alzheimer’s patients

JINAN – Fan Weidong’s life became more difficult after his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about six years ago.

“My father started asking the same questions over and over again,” Fan said, recalling the changes in his father before the diagnosis. “He became shy, quick-tempered and stubborn.” “His memory was weak, so he couldn’t remember our names, and he got lost several times.”

Fan, a police officer from Jiang District in Jinan, Shandong Province, sought treatment for his father, but to no avail. He also witnessed other families going through similar difficulties, including losing the ability to know the whereabouts of their elderly relatives.

“I wanted to do something that would make them feel more safe and comfortable,” said Fan, 53.

Since then, Fan has designed different types of clothing that help people find their missing loved ones. More than 2,000 items of clothing, which include jackets and T-shirts, have been distributed free of charge across the country to vulnerable people such as Alzheimer’s patients.

He added, “The clothes contain a QR code that contains the owner’s basic information and contact details in emergency situations.” “Moreover, the clothes have reflective strips on the back, similar to those on traffic police uniforms, to ensure the safety of elderly people traveling at night.

“The logo ‘AD 9-21’ is also printed on the back of the clothing, where AD stands for Alzheimer’s disease and 9-21 refers to September 21, which coincides with World Alzheimer’s Day,” he added.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, irreversible brain disorder that slowly destroys memory, cognitive ability, and the ability to perform simple tasks. Medical experts say that there is currently no cure for this disease.

In China, statistics indicate that about 10 million people aged 60 and above have Alzheimer’s disease. Earlier this year, China’s health authorities launched a national campaign that will last from this year until 2025 to promote disease prevention and treatment.

Inspired by experience

Life hasn’t been easy for Van in recent years. In 2015, three years before his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, his father was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

To help his father fight Alzheimer’s, Van ordered medications for him in an attempt to delay the progression of his disease, but the effect was limited.

On New Year’s Day 2019, his father failed to return home after walking. Fan worked with family and friends to search for him, and their hearts were filled with worry. More than an hour later, there was no news of his whereabouts.

At around 3pm that afternoon, Fan received a phone call from the police station informing him that his father had been found. Van rushed to the police station, where he found his father suffering from bruises and bleeding on his face after falling due to fatigue and difficulty walking. The fan’s face was wet with tears.

That experience inspired him to design and manufacture “anti-lost clothing” for his father and others with Alzheimer’s disease.

Manufacturing such clothes was not an easy task.

In order to better understand the real needs of Alzheimer’s patients and collect first-hand information, he examined cases of local elderly people who had lost their way and visited more than 100 families with members affected by the disease.

As a newbie to clothing design, he had no idea how difficult it would be.

“When I started to design such clothes, I found that it was not as simple as I imagined, and I faced many difficulties: from the style of the clothes to the texture of the fabric, from the function of the clothes to the feeling of freshness. Wearing them and from contacting the factory to sewing,” he said.

He was determined to overcome these problems, so he searched the Internet and read books about clothing design during his free time.

Inspired by traffic police uniforms, he applied similar reflective strips to his clothes and installed GPS devices from an electric tricycle in them. He later replaced them with small tracking devices, allowing people to use their mobile phones to find missing family members.

To further ensure the comfort of the clothing and the accuracy of the tracking devices, Fan has sought help from multiple companies outside Shandong that specialize in clothing design and manufacturing of tracking chips.

To be noticed

As more people learned about Fan’s brand, some approached him with a need for such clothes, and he offered to send them some for free. During his spare time, he kept in touch with the recipients’ relatives via the popular messaging app WeChat.

Some gave him notes which he used to improve the clothes. Others offered him words of encouragement.

Ninety-year-old Zhang Shizhen, an Alzheimer’s patient in Jinan, was among those who received clothes from Fan.

Every time she gets ready to go out, her children repeatedly urge her to wear it.

Hu Quan Sheng, Zhang’s son, recalls an incident that occurred on New Year’s Day in 2021, when his mother got lost while returning home after walking.

“Fortunately, some passers-by scanned the QR code on her clothes and called me, so we immediately rushed to where she was,” Huo said. “Although my mother’s memory is poor, she rejoices every time she sees Van.”

Fan has designed four generations of clothing and distributed more than 2,000 free clothing items to people in more than 20 provinces and cities in China, including Shaanxi and Henan provinces. More than 400,000 yuan ($55,762) has been invested in the effort.

Furthermore, over the years, his endeavors evolved into a public campaign involving more than 30 volunteers who helped him produce the garments and file patents. In cooperation with them, Fan also established a public service center.

Upon hearing of their actions, the Jinan Public Security Bureau and Jiangyin Civil Affairs Bureau offered them some financial support.

Fan plans to coordinate with at least seven communities to distribute about 1,000 pieces of anti-lost clothing this year.

“I hope that more people in need will receive clothes, and that more people will sponsor the underprivileged together,” he said.


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