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Help for Confused Elderly

by Lynne Maddox – 26th May 2013
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Do you know someone with memory problems – perhaps running the risk of becoming confused and wandering off from home? Neighbourhood Return helps find lost people with memory problems quickly, and gets them home safely.

What is it?

This new service has recently been set up to address the problem of people with dementia (or other memory problems) getting lost.

Neighbourhood Return uses a network of volunteers to locate missing people quickly and contact family members to return them home. The project was conceived by Dr Rupert McShane of the University of Oxford's Department of Psychiatry, who now serves as medical lead on the project board.

How does it work?

When someone goes missing, carers are often reluctant to contact the police and will wait for several hours before doing so. In this time the missing person could have travelled a long way, particularly if they have used public transport. Neighbourhood Return can dispatch volunteer search teams within minutes to locate missing people and return them home.

The service holds a database of vulnerable people, including descriptions, photographs, family contact details and likely places to look. When someone is reported missing, the team contacts volunteers in the vicinity to help search for them. When they are found, the volunteer calls the Neighbourhood Return centre, which then contacts a family member to collect them. (Or if this is not possible, the centre may arrange for the police or a volunteer to take the person home or to a place of safety. They only give home addresses to searchers if they need to take the missing person home.)

The call centre is open 24/7.

Although carers do not have to be registered to use the service in an emergency, it significantly improves response times if they have previously been entered in the database. If you register a person with memory problems now, they can start a search in 3-5 minutes, it otherwise can take between 15-20 minutes on the day they go missing.

How can you help?

Neighbourhood Return of course needs as many volunteers as possible. Signing up as a volunteer only takes a couple of minutes and can make a big difference to people's lives. Individual volunteers are rarely called upon, and can always say 'no' if they are not available at any given time. You can find out more details by downloading the Volunteers' Booklet, which is shown under the images on this page.

'We're very pleased with the initial response', says Dr McShane. 'Over 1,500 volunteers have signed up since November 2012 – and half of them had never volunteered for anything before.' 'When someone is reported missing, volunteers in their area will receive a text asking if they are available to help', he explains. 'If they are free, they are sent a description and photograph of the missing person, along with contact information and details of where to look. We tell you where to search, keeping in touch with you by phone and text. We monitor who is searching and where they've looked.

If you want to register a person with memory problems or volunteer this can be done online here.
Or over the phone on: 0116 229 3118

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