ALZHEIMER'S AND DEMENTIA
If you care for someone with dementia you can fill in the Herbert Protocol Form (link shown below) containing information to give to the Gardaí if the person goes missing. This means you don’t have to remember the information when you are under stress if someone goes missing. And it saves time, so the Gardaí can start the search sooner. You can fill in this form on your computer or print it out and fill it in by hand. Keep it somewhere safe where you can easily find it if the person goes missing. You could give a copy to other family members. Keep this information up to date whenever something changes. You only need to give the form to the Gardaí if the person goes missing. Details are helpful, but don’t worry if you can’t answer every question. There is space at the end of the form if you run out of space for any of the questions. And you can always add another page to a printout or add something to an email.
‘Wandering’ is the term used for those people with dementia who may wander from their usual environments.
Wandering is quite common amongst people with dementia and can be very worrying for families and carers concerned for their safety and well being. The person’s failing memory and declining ability to communicate may make it impossible for them to remember or explain the reason why they wandered.
There are many reasons why someone with dementia may wander. These include:
• changed environment
• excess energy
• searching for the past
• expressing boredom
• confusing night with day
• continuing a habit
• agitation, discomfort or pain
• a job to perform.
A person with dementia may feel uncertain and disorientated in a new environment such as a new house or day centre. It could happen because a person may forget where they were going or why. Wandering can be a way of using up excess energy which might indicate the person needs more regular exercise. People with dementia may become confused and wander off in search of someone or something, relating to their past.
As dementia progresses people find it harder to concentrate for any length of time and wandering may be their way of keeping occupied. People who have been used to walking long distances may simply wish to continue doing so.
Agitation, discomfort, any physical pain, tight clothing, excessive heat or needing to find a toilet can all be causes for wandering. Sometimes people leave the house because they believe they have to go to work or pick up their children in the afternoon.
What are the challenges for those who are missing?
There are many challenges the missing person may face such as safety, vulnerabilities, no access to medication, exposure to the elements, loss of orientation around current time, and inability to communicate as to where they are supposed to be.
It is important to note that a person with dementia will have their short-term memory affected and may be very confused and scared. They might have difficulty remembering their name, address or phone number.
What are the challenges for those left behind?
Those left behind may face anxiety, fear and confusion about where to search and how to look for their loved one. It is important to stay calm. Initially a person should make a thorough search of the house, garden, garage and shed. Write down what the person was wearing and perhaps notify the neighbours.
It might be a good idea to walk or drive around the immediate area and to any places the person may regularly visit. If possible, have somebody stay at home in case the person comes home and so that the telephone can be answered.
If you still cannot locate the person, you need to visit your local Garda station to make a missing persons report. The Gardaí may ask for a recent colour photograph and any identifying characteristics about the person who has wandered.