Following on from Dementia Awareness Week last week, the multi-agency Local Intervention and Falls Episodes (LIFE) Team in South Yorkshire have launched a pioneering trial into the use of GPS tracking software to help loved ones locate missing people, particularly those living with dementia.
The LIFE team, which consists of staff from South Yorkshire Police and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, have been working on behalf of all three emergency services in Sheffield since August last year, visiting vulnerable people to reduce fire risks, improve security and help people who have fallen.
Their work has expanded over the last year to include offering support to individuals that are living with dementia and their families or carers, and it is hoped that the trial of GPS tracking devices will offer some much needed reassurance.
Emergency services collaboration lead Temporary Chief Inspector Jenny Lax says: “When a loved one goes missing, it is an incredibly worrying and distressing time. Those concerns increase when that person lives with dementia.
“For police, when we receive a report of a missing person who lives with dementia, it generates a massive response immediately from across the force.
“In partnership with South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue, we wanted to see what additional support we could offer to those families and carers of those with dementia and that’s why we secured funding to explore the use of GPS trackers.”
The GPS trackers, which provide emergency services with the ability to trace a person’s movements, can be attached to any item that the individual frequently wears or is likely to always have on them, like a watch or a particular pair of shoes.
TCI Lax continues: “We know that those with dementia often feel they need to walk somewhere or retain some sense of routine and it’s important that the trackers are tailored to individual needs so that if they do go missing it’s more likely they’ll have the tracking device in their possession.
“This means that if they are reported missing, we can trace their movements more effectively and locate them much quicker.
“We hope that this trial offers an additional layer of reassurance to those families whose loved ones live with this awful and often debilitating disease, and provides some form of comfort that if they go missing, our emergency services are in a better position to locate them and return them home safely.”
SYFR Area Manager Steve Helps added: “This is yet another example of how the LIFE team is working together to produce meaningful outcomes for some of the most vulnerable people in society.
“We know that there are huge links between the people who need the help of the police and health services for reasons such as dementia, and those who are at risk of fire. So collaborative working such as this undoubtedly benefits our public safety work as well.”
The LIFE team are currently assessing potential candidates to take part in the trial and individuals that meet a certain set of agreed criteria will be offered a device.