Vulnerable people with dementia to be offered GPS trackers

Dementia trackers Avon and Somerset Police
Around 70% of people living with dementia may go missing at least once Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

People with dementia will be given GPS trackers to reduce the risk of them going missing.

Avon and Somerset Police are offering the devices to vulnerable adults as part of their Dementia Safeguarding Scheme.

A total of 30 GPS trackers will be supplied by Somerset-based company MindMe, thanks to £7,000 in funding from Bristol Water and Wessex Water.

The wearable devices will be allocated by the force’s Missing Person coordinators on a referral basis to those recipients considered most at risk of becoming a missing person.

Around 70% of people living with dementia may go missing at least once - with some at risk of going missing multiple times.

This can sometimes have life-threatening consequences.

Sergeant Stuart King, who runs the Dementia Safeguarding Scheme on a voluntary basis, said: “Wearable devices are not a substitute for good care, but when a vulnerable person is reported missing, every minute counts.

"That is where modern technology can make a crucial difference. I’d strongly encourage anyone caring for a person living with dementia to look into GPS tracking devices if they can.

“While the number of devices we can supply is limited, we hope to be able to offer this service to those known to be at the greatest risk.”

The trackers will be allocated by the force’s specialist Missing Person coordinators. Credit: Avon and Somerset Police

The Avon and Somerset Dementia Safeguarding Scheme was set up in 2015 in response to an increasing number of missing person and welfare concern reports involving people living with dementia.

The scheme, also known as the Herbert Protocol, enables families to upload vital information about their loved-one via the force's website, which can be quickly accessed by the police should the need arise to conduct a missing person search.

The new GPS trackers follow the successful rollout of Near-Field Communication (NFC) assistance wristbands and tags which store the wearer’s vital information.

This can then be retrieved by emergency services, health professionals or members of the public using a smartphone, to help return the wearer to safety if they are found lost or in need of assistance.

An embedded video link also provides the person scanning with advice on what action they can consider taking to assist the wearer.

The wristbands are bright yellow in colour and feature the Forget Me Not flower which is synonymous with dementia.

More than 1,600 assistance devices have already been allocated nationwide, with a further 1,000 being made available.

The wristbands are available free of charge via an online application to the Avon and Somerset Dementia Safeguarding Scheme.