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Caring for someone with dementia

If a member of your family or someone you care for is living with dementia, they may at some point start to walk about. Here are some tips that may help you to minimise the chance of this happening and assist the police if they do.

  • Consider picture references or signs to rooms. Black writing on a yellow background has been identified as the easiest to understand.
  • Inform your neighbours, friends, local shopkeepers and anyone else with whom the person has regular contact with that they have a tendency to walk about. Ask them to contact you immediately if they are seen out alone.

  • Make sure the person carries some form of identification and details of a carer or neighbour who can be contacted if they get lost. This can be sewn or printed into a jacket, back of their collar or a handbag. Alternatively, they could wear an identification bracelet or necklace.

  • Consider using devices which alert you when doors are being opened. This could involve placing bells over door handles, installing door chimes or pressure and motion sensors.

  • Encourage the person to carry a mobile phone with them at all times. If switched on and kept inside their pocket, this may help in locating their whereabouts. Likewise, GPS locators can be built into watches or stitched into clothing.

  • Consider storing certain items out of view, such as car/house keys, hats and coats, as this may reduce their impulse to leave. If the person gets restless towards the end of the day, suggest to them that you take a walk together.

What to do if someone with dementia goes missing

  • Call the police on 999 as soon as you realise that someone living with dementia is missing.
  • Quick action is very important; the police will treat your call as urgent.
  • Have several copies of a recent, close-up photograph of the person to give to the police and anyone else who might be searching for them.
  • Have a written description of the person to pass onto the police. Include details of their appearance and any medication they might be taking.
  • Keep a list of places that the person may have worked, lived, visited frequently or socialised as they often try to head back to places they have known.
  • If the person has been reported as missing before, inform the police. A record of the person will already exist and can be updated, saving police time and enabling a faster search.
  • When the person returns try not to show them that you have been worried. If they have got lost, they may be feeling anxious themselves. Reassure them and quickly get them back into a familiar routine.

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