Dementia: GPS trackers provided to sufferers to help stop ‘tragic’ incidents | UK News

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When Len Jenkins was last found wandering the streets near his home in Portishead, a worried stranger made sure he was returned safely.

But Len’s son, Keith, constantly worries about his 94-year-old father.

Len’s dementia means he can’t always remember where he is. His caregivers put up signs on his front door telling him not to go out alone, but he sometimes forgets.

Keith, 76, lives 10 miles away and still works, so he’s not able to keep an eye on him all the time.

But now he has a new way to keep tabs on his dad. Len has been selected by Avon and Somerset Police to receive one of 30 new GPS tracking devices distributed to people with dementia.

They are given to people most at risk of disappearing. This means families and police can log into an app and find out where they are.

Devices can be worn as a lanyard or attached to clothing.

“I can relax a little more,” Keith says. “I can relax because I feel like everything is in place to help him physically as much as possible.”

Keith adds: “I could put him in a house where he’ll be 100 per cent safe…or I could take him home to where he wanted to be where he’s probably not as safe.

“And so the systems we have in place here, I think, are the best compromise. He’s at home, he’s happy and in my conscience, I’ve done everything to protect him.”

Picture:
Keith constantly worries about his father.

The project was the brainchild of Sergeant Stuart King who saw that something needed to be done to help.

“Over the last 18 years of my police service this has happened regularly and in fact I have seen it more and more in recent years where we are getting more and more calls from people with dementia that are found by members of the public, lost or in distress,” said Sergeant King.

“And there are certain incidents that I witnessed as well that stuck with me. Some ended up in tragic circumstances and some were people with dementia who traveled through cities trying to find homes. of childhood that no longer exist.

“So it was these kinds of incidents that led me to look for a solution to this to better protect people.”

The tracker connects to an app that families and police can connect to
Picture:
The tracker connects to an app that families and police can connect to

The devices were funded by local companies Bristol Water and Wessex Water.

Stuart has already been contacted by police forces across the country interested in rolling out a similar program.

There are currently around 900,000 people in the UK with dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, but that figure is set to rise sharply to 1.6 million by 2040.

Len was found wandering the streets
Picture:
Len was found wandering the streets

The charity’s policy officer, Gavin Terry, said with rising numbers there was a need to find new ways to support people.

“Innovative technology, like this initiative, is really important to achieve that,” he says.

“It is also a great example of how what is currently found in everyday technology can be put to good use to help keep people safe, help their loved ones, support them and care for them. them, improving their well-being and, in many cases, helping to prolong their independence.

“There are ethical considerations. And there should always be very clear guidelines for how this kind of technology is used, especially for people who don’t have the ability to make decisions for themselves. “

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