Missing Persons Week a reminder of the importance of staying connected

This Missing Persons Week, Alzheimer’s Australia NSW CEO The Hon. John Watkins AM has encouraged family and carers of people with dementia to maintain support networks for people living with the condition, as they are at risk of going missing, and to consider signing up for the Safely Home program.

In NSW, almost 12,000 people go missing each year, and as many as one in 10 of these people may have some form of dementia.

The theme of this year’s National Missing Persons Week, which runs from 31 July – 6 August, is Stay Connected.

“For people living with dementia, their families and carers, the theme of 2016 Missing Persons Week is a timely reminder of the importance of maintaining connections with family and friends and enhancing support networks for those most at risk,” Mr Watkins said.

“Due to the nature of dementia, people with the condition are at risk of going missing. One of the most common symptoms of dementia is memory loss, which may lead to difficulty finding the way home. Other people living with dementia may have developed a propensity to wander.

“We also encourage carers of people with dementia who are at risk of such behaviour to consider registration in the Safely Home program.”

Safely Home is a joint program run by Alzheimer’s Australia NSW and the NSW Police Missing Persons Unit. It aims to help locate people with dementia if they become lost, with the help of a personalised stainless steel bracelet, which features an engraved toll free phone number and personal identification number linked to the NSW Police Missing Persons Unit database.

“People living with dementia can become disoriented, and if this occurs when they are for example out for a walk or shopping, they may experience difficulties finding their way back to carers or their homes, and this can prove extremely traumatic for people with dementia and upsetting for families and carers,” Mr Watkins said.

The Safely Home confidential database includes a detailed description of the person with dementia, including a photograph, where provided, contact information, previous residential addresses and locations the person may visit. The database is accessible by police at all times.

If someone finds the lost person, phones the Missing Persons Unit and quotes the identification number, police will make arrangements for them to be returned home. Carers can also use Safely Home to instigate a search for the person with dementia by contacting their local police station and filing a missing person’s report. 

Identification bracelets cost $39 for Alzheimer’s Australia NSW members and $54 for non-members. More than 3,500 have been issued since the program began.

“This is valuable partnership and program which contributes to creating a more dementia-friendly community. I would like to thank the NSW Police for their ongoing support,” Mr Watkins said.

For more information, or to register, call Dementia Australia NSW on the National Dementia Helpline – 1800 100 500.