Dementia files help find missing patients


Police are gathering the personal details and former addresses of new dementia patients as part of a pilot to help find them if they go missing.

Officers are working with nursing homes, GPs and families to find out the favourite haunts and walking spots of people diagnosed with dementia.

They will also gather where the person went to school and got married and where they used to live.

They hope this pre-emptive action will allow them to respond more quickly.

There are estimated to be about 90,000 people in Scotland living with dementia.

Image caption Dementia patients are more at risk of going missing

Research suggests that at some point 40% of them will go missing.

It is estimated that the numbers of people with dementia will double by 2030.

The file on dementia patients will not be kept by police but will be held by family or a nursing home in an agreed place.

The pilot protocol - which currently covers seven local authority areas - also involves looking at ways to prevent the person going missing in the first place by identifying triggers which might unsettle them and result in them trying to leave their home.

Police Scotland now plans to roll the pilot out across the country.

Supt Jim Royan, who is in charge of the pilot protocol, told BBC Scotland: "The most important thing is that it's not about preventing someone enjoying the same freedoms of life as they've always enjoyed.

"But if we can do something, if we can collect information that allows us to respond more quickly that's a good help.

"It also increases the care-providers level of vigilance through early identification and risk assessment."

Image caption Jim Pearson, of Alzheimers Scotland, said dementia patients were at risk

Jim Pearson, of Alzheimers Scotland, said he welcomed the move but that it needed to be used with the consent of patients.

He said: "It's an opportunity for family members or staff who work in care homes to put together a picture of that person and gather some information about that person, the places they lived before, the places they might go if they go missing.

"It means that information is already there and exists so if that person does go missing, the police aren't wasting precious time."

He added: "We know that the nature of the illness means they are potentially more at risk of going missing.

"They are more likely, perhaps, to become disorientated or stressed or anxious when out of doors.

"Maybe they had intended to go somewhere - an address they had lived at before or a workplace - and actually find the environment has changed and they become disorientated and lost.

"People with dementia are more at risk of going missing and because they are vulnerable are more at risk of coming to some harm."

Knowledge before it happens

Image caption Hannah, who has dementia, thinks the pilot scheme is a good idea

Hannah McKay's husband went missing several times after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's and dementia. He went into care partly as a result.

"On the first occasion we went to bed and I put my hand over and realised he wasn't there," she said.

"I thought where is he? And it dawned on me that he's got the key from where it was high up on the hook.

"He'd never shown any intention of leaving. The police arrived because a gentleman had found him at the back of the rugby pitch on the ground and it was raining.

"Another time he went over the main A6 and that was the deciding factor that he needed to go somewhere secure."

Now Hannah, who is 79, has been diagnosed with dementia and she has moved to a nursing home in Hawick in the Borders.

As part of the pilot all of her details and past addresses have been collected in the format set out by the police protocol.

Hannah, a retired nurse, thinks it is a good idea.

"It's better to have the knowledge before it needs to happen," she said.

"We need to prepare for the problems before they start, so it is in place.

"I see the point of having a form with as much information on that form as you can give so that it gives you a good start."

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