Adults go missing for all sorts of reasons, but according to national charity Missing People; dementia is one of the most common, representing around one in ten adult missing incidents nationally. It is estimated that four in every 10 people with dementia will go missing at some point, often unintentionally and may require police involvement.
It is important that families and carers feel there is something they can do to help when someone goes missing. Today (19 September 2019) Wiltshire Police, in partnership with Alzheimer's Support and Swindon Carers Centre has launched the Herbert Protocol; a national scheme which encourages carers to compile and store useful information which can be used in the event of a vulnerable person going missing.
Wiltshire Police is asking carers, family members and friends of dementia sufferers to fill in a booklet in advance, recording important details such as medication, mobile numbers, places previously visited and a recent photograph.
If a family member, friend or resident goes missing, the booklet can be quickly handed to police, reducing the time taken to gather information during the initial, critical stages of a search, which police call 'the golden hour'. The Herbert Protocol is named after George Herbert, a war veteran of the Normandy landings, who lived with dementia.
Detective Inspector Mark Kent, Force Lead for Missing Persons, said: "I really welcome the opportunity to work with partner agencies across Wiltshire and Swindon in launching the Herbert Protocol. It will help us and help carers keep vulnerable people safe.
"The information may need to be located quickly, at any time day or night, by a police officer to begin the initial searches. The police will only ever ask for the Herbert Protocol booklet if the person is reported missing".
Stuart Ilbury, Service Delivery Manager at Swindon Carers Centre, said "The Herbert Protocol will not only enable the individual with memory problems the freedom we all deserve, but also give their equally deserving carers relief and knowledge that plans are in place should their dependents get confused and lost. Swindon Carers Centre are delighted to have played a part in this new protocol and its launch."
Diane Barkham, Dementia Adviser Manager at Alzheimer's Support, said: "Alzheimer's Support are really pleased to see an initiative that will help families feel more confident that their family member have a better chance of being found if they use this document. It is always a worry that someone with dementia may go out and not find their way home".
Missing People's Georgia Romeril said, "People living with dementia may feel the urge to walk about, sometimes leaving home and struggling to find their way back. Due to their age and medical circumstances they may be at greater risk of coming to harm whilst they are away."
The booklet is available free of charge and can be downloaded from the Wiltshire Police website www.wiltshire.police.uk/herbertprotocol. Copies are also available from police station enquiry offices, council offices and doctors' surgeries. It must be kept in a safe place where it can easily be found and given to police if the person it refers to goes missing.
You can report a missing person to police at any time. Call 101 or 999 if the missing person is a child or someone thought to be at serious risk or harm. You can also report to the charity Missing People on 116 000.