If a member of your family or someone you care for is living with dementia, they may at some point start to walk about. Here are some that may help you to minimise the chance of this happening and assist the police if they do.
Put signs on the doors informing the person that it is not an exit, thereby encouraging them not to leave.
Consider pictorial references or signs to rooms. Black writing on a yellow background has been identified as the easiest to understand.
Inform your neighbours, friends, local shopkeepers and anyone else with whom the person has regular contact with that they have a tendency to walk about. Ask them to contact you immediately if they are seen out alone.
Make sure the person carries some form of identification and details of a carer or neighbour who can be contacted if they get lost. This can be sewn or printed into a jacket, back of their collar or a handbag. Alternatively, they could wear an identification bracelet or necklace.
Consider using devices which alert you when doors are being opened. This could involve placing bells over door handles, installing door chimes or pressure and motion sensors.
Encourage the person to carry a mobile phone with them at all times. If switched on and kept inside their pocket, this may help in locating their whereabouts. Likewise, GPS locators can be built into watches or stitched into clothing.
Consider storing certain items out of view, such as car/house keys, hats and coats, as this may reduce their impulse to leave. If the person gets restless towards the end of the day, suggest to them that you take a walk together.
Dementia and the Herbert Protocol – Safe and Found
When somebody with a diagnosis of dementia goes missing, it is a very stressful situation for family, friends and carers.
It can also be stressful for those who work with vulnerable people in various residential settings, such as care homes.
The Herbert Protocol is a national scheme and is available through Leicestershire Police. Anybody can download a copy of a user-friendly form. The person with dementia or their family, carers or professionals use the form to record vital information about that person. Information provided could include a recent photograph, relevant medical information (including medication needed), whether the person has access to a mobile phone (and number) and places they might be interested in visiting, for example where they used to work or somewhere they have happy early memories of.
Once all this information has been listed on the form it can be used as a risk reduction tool in the event that the vulnerable person is reported missing. Having access to the information will also help us to speed up the processes involved in our investigation.
The form should be easily accessible and we will only ask for it when the person is reported missing. We will store the information securely. If one of our partner agencies completes the form that organisation becomes the data controller and must store the information appropriately.
Download the form
A copy of the form can be downloaded here (Word).
The protocol is named after George Herbert, a war veteran of the Normandy Landings, who had dementia. He died while he was ‘missing’ on his way to his childhood home.
Frequently asked questions
When should I complete the form?
As soon as possible, so that you have the information ready in case you should ever need to use it
What should I do with the form when it is complete?
Keep the form in a safe place, but somewhere you can find it quickly. We will only ask for it if the person it refers to is reported missing.
What should I do if my relative or friend goes missing?
Call 999 and ask for the police. Make sure you have your Herbert Protocol form (Word) to hand so you can pass on information quickly.
I’m unsure of some of the questions on the form and can’t answer some of them.
Please do not worry. Complete as much as you can.
What will the police do with the information?
We will use it to help to find the missing person. We will store the information securely and only share it with our partner agencies if there is a need to safeguard the person concerned.