Sep 05, 2017

Finding Vulnerable Missing People With Dementia Sooner

Here’s something that it seemed important to share with people with dementia and those who support them in a personal and professional capacity.  I didn’t know about the Herbert Protocol until researching this post. I’ll certainly be promoting its use with the people that I work with and encouraging my local police force to give it prominence.

George Herbert was a Second World War veteran who had a dementia diagnosis and repeatedly went missing after leaving the care facility where he lived in an attempt to go home.  On the last occasion he died in the attempt before  he was found.  The Herbert Protocol is named after him.  It’s a UK scheme which is being rolled out by police forces and other agencies across the country.  I wonder if there are similar schemes in other countries.  If you read this and one is not in place where you live why not contact your local police forces and see if something like it can be implemented?

What is the Herbert Protocol?

The  Herbert Protocol has been produced with the aim of tracing missing people with dementia more quickly, therefore reducing risks associated with their vulnerability. It’s a form containing background information.  This includes historic information that might give clues about where a person might turn up such as old home addresses or other places that hold past or present significance.  It also provides valuable information about their abilities,  care needs including what medication they need to take and how best to respond to them when they are found.

Ideally this form should be completed  early on following diagnosis when the person themselves is more likely to be able to provide input.  Family and friends do not always know what places have meaning to a particular individual. The form should then be kept by the family safely in electronic or paper form.  Distribution of copies to anyone  who support them is actively encouraged. It also seems important to update the information if a person’s situation or appearance changes or if any other information of significance comes to light.  The police do not need access to the Herbert Protocol for an individual until they go missing.  Then they should be advised of its existence and given a copy to help them in their search for the person.

It’s important to note that completing this form does not replace other ways of ensuring safety.  The risks associated with a person with dementia accessing the wider community need to be assessed on an individual and ongoing basis.   Appropriate measures enabling or restricting their ability to move around freely will be dependent on physical and cognitive health and the environment where they live.   Seek specialist advice about this, particularly if you feel that a person that you support might be at imminent risk.

How to Find the Forms

The forms can downloaded from participating police force websites.  Even if the Herbert Protocol hasn’t reached your own part of the world yet, it still seems sensible precaution to collect this information.  Just use the protocol from another geographical area.  Here’s a link to the West Yorkshire Police website who were one of the first forces to adopt the scheme.  

It seems to me that this scheme can be promoted  bottom up by people with dementia and their carers too.  If the information saves valuable time in a missing person search then the local police force will be alerted to its importance and may be much more likely to implement it.

This content was originally published at the Dementia Consultant

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