Chorley policeman backs scheme for safe return of dementia sufferers who can’t find home

Good Deeds Trust volunteers Terry and his wife Pat Daly, Chorley police sergeant Paul Harrison, Dementia sufferer Neil Rushton with his daughter Lindsay Moys and Dementia sufferer Roger with his wife Anne Tunnicliff.  Dementia Buddy scheme in Chorley
Good Deeds Trust volunteers Terry and his wife Pat Daly, Chorley police sergeant Paul Harrison, Dementia sufferer Neil Rushton with his daughter Lindsay Moys and Dementia sufferer Roger with his wife Anne Tunnicliff. Dementia Buddy scheme in Chorley

A police sergeant is championing a new initiative he hopes will safeguard people living with dementia.

The pioneering scheme could see dementia sufferers who get lost as a result of their memory loss reunited with their home and family in a fraction of the time it would take otherwise.

And it’s as simple as wearing a wrist band which is encoded with the contact details of a family member, a carer or a care home.

Police sergeant Paul Harrison has made it his mission to ensure that the most vulnerable people in the borough are issued with Dementia Buddy wrist bands.

“The ultimate aim of the wrist bands are to help people with Dementia be united with their family at the earliest opportunity,” he said.

The idea for the initiative came about when Sgt Harrison found an elderly woman walking down his street lost, confused and without any identification on her.

“Earlier this year I found an elderly female walking down my street and she appeared confused. I spoke with her and she couldn’t tell me where she lived. I contacted the police and no one knew where she was from and she had no ID.

“I took her in and gave her a cup of tea and a biscuit but she quickly became frustrated because she was in unknown surroundings.

“Eventually I took the lady out in my car until she recognised her address and I got her back home.

“My wife Christine told me about a Dementia Buddy scheme that was running in the Wigan area so I made contact with them and outlined my intention to bring the scheme to Chorley and South Ribble.”

It took Sgt Harrison three hours to help the woman to find her home and he hopes that the wrist bands will also cut down on the time police spend trying to find missing people.

When they are issued to people with Dementia the wearable bands are encoded with a carer’s contact details.

It means that when a member of the police force finds a Dementia sufferer who is lost and they tap the wrist band with their mobile phone a message will pop up which says: ‘My name is [name]. Please call [number] next of kin.’

Volunteer Anne Tunnicliff, 63, at Wigan charity Good Deeds Trust said: “By giving their first name it makes them more comfortable when they are found.”

It is the same kind of technology used in contactless payment cards, Near Field Communication, and anyone who has an Android can use it.

Owners of the iPhone six and seven will also have access to the technology when the new IOS update goes live in September.

Sgt Harrison is also working with sgt Mike Moys to see the scheme rolled out to South Ribble as well.

Neil Rushton, 60, from Whittle-le-Woods, has Dementia and his daughter Lindsay Moys, 33, who lives in Buckshaw Village, was keen that he was issued with a wrist band encoded with her number because he has been lost before.

“He lives on his own and I find that really stressful,” said Lindsay, who also juggles looking after her two children with her job as a catering manager.

“I just think that if there’s something in place to help him then why not use it.

“He’s managed to get lost in his car before and ended up in Wales when he was meant to be going to Rochdale.

“My cousin found him through the police. I’m trying to get him into a care home.”

Sgt Harrision, who is fundraising to pay for the wrist bands, said: “The key to the wrist bands is making sure they are correctly advertised so that people know what to do if they find someone wearing one.”

At its best the initiative will mean that any lay person who discovers a lost Dementia sufferer will be able to tap their wrist band using their mobile and call the number that appears on their screen, reuniting the missing person with their home and loved ones.

If however, the lay person does not have access to the technology, when they call the police to help the officers will be able to tap the wrist band with their mobile phone and immediately have access to a number to call to locate where the missing person has come from.

Sgt Harrison has been in discussion with Lancashire Fire and Rescue which has 150 wrist bands to give out.

He said: “A proviso for the fire service giving them out is that the person must have a fire safety check at their address which helps protect that person on two fronts - both in their home and out in the community.

“We will be working with the council and other partner agencies to obtain funding to ensure that the wrist bands can be obtained free of charge throughout Chorley and South Ribble.

“Age concern have already donated £250 to the cause.”