In Canada, more 750,000 people live with dementia. An estimated 60 per cent will go missing at least once, according to the Alzheimer Society of Toronto. “Watch the news and you’ll hear about another older adult with dementia who has gone missing,” says Noelannah Neubauer, an AGE-WELL trainee (AGE-WELL is Canada’s Technology and Aging Network), who is working to improve the situation.
As part of her PhD work at the University of Alberta, Neubauer has developed comprehensive easy-to-use guidelines that offer proactive strategies to reduce the chances that someone with dementia will get lost. The guidelines were created in collaboration with provincial Alzheimer’s societies, police organizations, social workers, health-care professionals, caregivers and people living with dementia.
“These are the first guidelines of their kind that simplify the vast number of strategies out there,” says Neubauer, whose research revealed there are more than 300 types of high- and low-tech strategies for persons with dementia at risk of getting lost.
“You can be at risk of getting lost but still live a good life,” she stresses. “It’s making sure you implement proactive strategies that focus on a balance between safety and independence.”
Her guidelines come in the form of a checklist. They focus on behaviours and circumstances—such as whether the person with dementia lives alone or frequently gets overwhelmed—to determine a person’s level of risk. Strategies, like locating-technologies, are then matched to each level of risk. There are different versions of the guidelines for people living with dementia at home, with family or in a care home.
Neubauer is working with several provincial Alzheimer’s societies and other groups to disseminate the guidelines.
She is passionate about helping people with dementia live safely in the community for as long as possible, while reducing the chances of them getting lost.
In her own life, Neubauer has seen friends of her grandparents experience cognitive impairment. “Being so close to them, I just wanted to find a way to keep them as safe and healthy as possible.”
Neubauer is a PhD student in Rehabilitation Science, working under the supervision of AGE-WELL researcher Dr. Lili Liu.
Originally published by AGE-WELL.