Getting home safely: Finding missing people with dementia faster

Queensland University of Technology researchers are calling on people all over Australia to contribute ideas to a new project that aims to get more people with dementia home safely if they go missing.


“One in five land searches in Queensland involves a person with dementia and, unfortunately, about 18 per cent will not be found alive,” said lead researcher Dr Margaret MacAndrew from QUT’s School of Nursing and the national Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration


“The aim of this research is to improve the reporting time of missing persons with dementia, which in turn will help improve their chances of survival.”


The “Getting Home Safely” project is being led by QUT researchers and supported by funding from the Dementia Australia Research Foundation.


This month, the research team is launching a public consultation process to brainstorm ideas.


Two online community forum days will take place on 24 November and 1 December 2020.


“We want to hear from people who have an interest in improving the safety of people with dementia – nurses, doctors, police, other emergency service workers and members of the general public including carers of people with dementia,” Dr MacAndrew said.


“Interested people can register online. We will then send them a link to online learning modules about dementia which need to be completed before they take part in the small online group discussions on 24 November or 1 December 2020.”


Dr MacAndrew said people with dementia were at greater risk of getting lost – and experiencing devastating outcomes.


“This risk is exacerbated by confusion about how to report a missing person with dementia to the police, which can delay search efforts,” she said.


“Many people think that someone has to be missing for 24 hours before they can officially be reported missing.


“But this is not the case. A person can be reported missing as soon as they are noticed absent.


“Rapid reporting within one hour of knowing a person is missing is known to help search and rescue have a better chance of finding a person alive and well.


“So the major aim of our research – and this community consultation – is to develop recommendations for a national approach to reporting a missing person and ways to improve the safety of people with dementia.”


Dr MacAndrew is a registered nurse and has been researching dementia and aged care at QUT for 10 years.


She completed her PhD on dementia-related wandering, particularly in residential aged care.


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15 November 2020.