Police pilot dementia scheme in Northumberland

Supt Mick Paterson with Barbara Dow and Danielle Hayes, of the Alzheimer's Society.
Supt Mick Paterson with Barbara Dow and Danielle Hayes, of the Alzheimer's Society.

Northumbria Police has teamed up with the Alzheimer’s Society to pilot an awareness-raising scheme to help find people with dementia who have gone missing.

Officers in Northumberland implemented the Dementia Friends initiative which was developed by the Alzheimer’s Society. The programme gave officers information about how to notice the signs of dementia and what police may need to consider when dealing with someone living with dementia.

Officers are also able to use information provided by family members or carers to build a picture of where a missing person may be likely to go and to locate them.

Since the initiative, officers in Northumberland managed to locate a man with dementia who had wandered off. They were able to find him in less than an hour and deal with him in a way that was sensitive to his condition and provide reassurance to avoid causing him distress.

The programme has been rolled out to care homes across the Northumberland area encouraging them to compile a file on each individual resident with dementia that would indicate to police where to concentrate their search in the event the person goes missing.

Barbara Dow’s husband died seven years ago after living with dementia. Mrs Dow, from Amble, spoke highly of the initiative and said it could be a life-saver.

“If someone had said to me in the early days of my husband’s diagnoses to register this information with police, I wouldn’t have necessarily been inclined to do so, but it’s because you don’t know what to expect. But people need to know this tool is available. People need to know this is not a police record – it is a comfort for you and your family – it really could be a life-saver.

“You may not realise in the early stages of dementia how useful this could be further down the line. This is not something for people to be concerned about. It is a really good thing and could help save your loved ones – it’s a kindly help.

“It is an invaluable tool so if it is something that is offered it is definitely worth doing as it could be of benefit to you, your family and carers equally. It is not a question of do it later, do it now.”

Superintendent Mick Paterson said: “This is an example of how working together can potentially save lives. We introduced the training last year and we believe this may have helped a number of people living with dementia.

“It is designed to assist in those circumstances where we need to focus our resources quickly. It is part of a changing way we are looking to help vulnerable people in Northumberland.

“People living with dementia may often be unaware of the period in time they are living which can cause some challenges when we don’t know their whereabouts.

“Working with the Alzheimer’s Society and care homes has allowed us to work together with the experts to provide the best services possible.”

The Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird, who represents the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) on the National Mental Health Crisis Care Concordat, praised the joint initiative.

She said: “We know working in partnership improves the care of people in mental health crisis and anything which improves the help and service received by people with dementia in our communities is to be welcomed. It’s great that this initiative is now spreading across this community.”

Danielle Hayes, Alzheimer’s Society operations manager for North and South of Tyne, said: “We are delighted that by working together with Northumbria Police we are taking steps towards making Northumberland a better, safer place to live for people with dementia, their carers and loved ones.

“The battle against dementia is a fight that everyone in our communities must embrace and it is a very positive development that Northumbria Police officers are leading by example. They are rising to the challenges created by dementia which are arguably some of the most serious faced by our communities.”