If you work with people living with dementia, you will be aware that as their condition deteriorates, they can walk with purpose around the home. Did you know that ‘Missing People’ charity reports that 4 in every 10 people with dementia will go missing at some point?
The reasons people living with dementia may leave a home, or a care setting vary. Still, it is usually merely confusion about their surroundings, time and place, not understanding a door leads to outside and then walking further, wanting to return to their previous family home or during periods of depression or heightened anxiety.
Usually, people are found quickly, but there have been some tragic cases. In January 2020 a lady in Scotland was found at night, terrified and bleeding, face down in the road a mile from her care home.
What systems and processes do you have to make sure staff know how to monitor people but also respond quickly if someone goes missing? You may have door alarms, but I have seen that staff can become complacent and not respond to check an alarm, or that the alarms are broken and not checked or maintained. Are door alarm responses part of your fire drills? You may well have other methods such as regular night checks or sensor pads to alert you to someone moving around at night. People also go missing during the day. This has happened when visitors have let someone out or in one case, a kitchen door was left open.
Did you know about the Herbert Protocol ( safe and found), a national scheme being introduced across police forces and other agencies? The protocol encourages carers to compile useful information which could be alerted to the police quickly if someone goes missing. There is a form to complete vital recording information. This is kept in the home and prompts staff to give the most helpful information to police when they may be stressed and panicking. A bit like your Peep’s which give fire services the most up to date information in the event of a fire.
It is also important to keep an up to date identifying photograph with the form as people’s appearance can change quite rapidly as their dementia progresses. Keep talking through your key procedures with staff to help them remember what to do in the event someone leaves the home to embed the process.
You can find out if your police force has introduced the Herbert Protocol by going to their website. If they haven’t, it might be worth you informing your local care association and asking if they could liaise with the police and find out when this might happen. In the meantime, you can go to West Yorkshire Police using the link below, where you can download the form and a poster.