The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has launched a 'Safer Walking' campaign to help promote GPS tracking technology to assist families and support services in locating people with dementia.
Walking can provide both physical and psychological benefits for people with dementia, and where there are safety concerns a GPS tracker device provides an option to help reassure carers and provide assistance to sufferers, should it be needed.
Working with the Alzheimer's Society, Age UK, and Dementia UK, the MPS is hoping to highlight the advantages of using a small battery powered GPS 'tracking' system. The device can reassure those with dementia but also allow their family and friends to have the knowledge that their loved one is walking in a safe environment.
Where possible it is advised to obtain consent from the person using the GPS tracker, especially during the early stages of their condition. This will allow them to understand how the technology works and grow accustomed to its presence.
The trackers available on the market use a combination of GPS (satellite) and GPRS (phone) signals to given an accurate location. Some suppliers provide a SIM card with their device and charge monthly fees to use their services and to keep the SIM in credit.
Most trackers work via text message alerts, or through a Smartphone App or Website. In order to locate the person, you can send a text message or call the phone number of the unit and you will receive a text message back from the SIM card inside the tracker with a Google Maps link to locate the person.
Chief Superintendent Steve Wallace, said: "The use of safer walking technology is not a substitute for good care and the right level of support.
"There must also be a balance between protecting your loved ones from potential harm, and not interfering with their human rights or rights to privacy. As well as offering peace of mind these products assist the police and other agencies to locate lost individuals. The use of this technology may also increase independence, allowing an individual more freedom, and reduce the need for more restrictive measures, such as locking doors."
Dr Hilda Hayo, CEO and Chief Admiral Nurse at Dementia UK, said: "GPS can be reassuring and empowering for a person with dementia. It can offer a sense of security and independence, thus reducing stress and anxiety for the person, as well as their carer. The decision to use GPS technology should be based on the best interests of the person's safety, taking issues of privacy into account, and ideally having gained their consent."
Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive at Alzheimer's Society, said: "Going for a walk can be hugely beneficial for a person with dementia, helping them continue to live well in their local community, take exercise and get out and about to do things they enjoy - but it can also present challenges.
"As a person's dementia progresses, they may become more confused, which can lead to them getting lost or disorientated even in familiar surroundings. This often causes distress for the person with dementia and their carer, and means the police often have to get involved to help locate the person and get them home safely.
"We are excited to have united with the Metropolitan Police Service to deliver practical solutions to help people with dementia stay safe. Technology that is tailored to individual needs can support people living with the condition to get out and about more safely, and allow them to live well in their communities for longer."
The MPS currently investigates around 44,000 missing person cases each year. Investigations start as soon as a report is made to police and the majority of missing people are located within one-day, safe and well.
The MPS's Missing Persons Co-ordinators Unit is currently working with care homes, local authorities, NHS trusts and partners across London to help reduce the number of missing people. By ensuring appropriate safeguarding is in place for persons reported missing our aim is to prevent them going missing again and therefore reduce the risk of them coming to harm.
The welfare of missing people is of paramount importance to the MPS and we will do everything within our control to work towards their safe return.
The hashtag for Dementia Awareness Week is #DAW2017.