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Have You Heard About the Herbert Protocol?

By Bill Murray
September 24, 2020

Have You Heard About the Herbert Protocol?

How a police initiative can help cut the time it takes to locate missing people living with dementia.

Sue Carroll has been caring for her husband, Ron, who has dementia, for the last three years with the help of carers, but last month, following a visit from a family member, Ron went missing.

“It was such an anxious and stressful time” said Sue “Ron’s never left the house without me since he was diagnosed and I was in a blind panic that he would be harmed”

Luckily for Sue she had been advised by Ron’s carers to complete a Herbert Protocol form. The Herbert Protocol is a nationwide scheme which has been adopted by a number of local police forces including Essex and Sussex and allows carers or family members to compile and keep important information about a person who may go missing.

Named after George Herbert, a World War 2 veteran who lived with dementia and frequently went missing from his care home, Mr Herbert went missing trying to find his family home and sadly died. Although the protocol was initially designed for people living in a dementia care home two years after its launch it was expanded to include people living in their own homes.

The Herbert protocol aims to reduce the time it takes to obtain information from a relative when someone with dementia goes missing, at a time when it’s stressful to remember and relay the information needed to find them.

The details contained in Sue’s form allowed the police to send officers quickly to Ron’s previous living addresses and he was found safe and well five hours later in the greenhouse of his childhood home.

“Having all Ron’s information to hand in one place made it so much easier when I was talking to the police as I was so stressed and anxious, I would have found it hard to remember some of the details” says Sue. “I now update my Herbert form regularly if Ron changes his glasses or his hairstyle and it gives me a real peace of mind knowing it’s in a safe place and can be accessed immediately”

What to include in the Herbert Protocol form

The more historic information you can provide, the easier it will be to locate your loved one so try and gain as much information from as many different people as you can about previous work addresses and homes they have lived in including schools, friends houses and anywhere else that they have an emotional attachment to.

Below is a quick checklist to work through with your family:

  • Name, and preferred nickname if any
  • Description: weight, height, hair colour etc
  • Any distinguishing features: birthmarks, tattoos, scars etc
  • Daily routine with locations
  • Any weekly or monthly appointments
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Do they carry money with them, can they access money?
  • Medication
  • Interests
  • Previous addresses
  • Workplaces
  • Date of birth
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Mobile phone numbers
  • Any previous locations they have been found if they have gone missing previously. Give details of the route they took.
  • Schools, colleges and universities attended
  • Where they grew up
  • Where they enjoyed going on holiday
  • Where they got married
  • Any location you believe has an emotional attachment
  • Any risk factors. Is your parent suicidal, depressed, confused, violent, use alcohol etc.
  • Point of contact when they are found
  • Any other information that will help locate, protect or help communicate with your parent

Once the form has been completed then store it electronically on your phone if you can or somewhere safe where it can be accessed quickly.

Lowering the risk of wandering

Wandering can happen at any time, no matter how diligent a carer you are but you can lower the chances of it happening by implementing the following strategies:

  • Identify the times of day when wondering usually occurs and plan activities to take place during these times to reduce restlessness.
  • Place locks out of the line of sight either higher or lower on the door so they’re harder to access.
  • Avoid places that are busy and can be disorientating.
  • Secure alarms on windows and doors that sound when they are opened.
  • Reassure calmly if the person becomes restless and wants to leave the location without correcting them about any false beliefs they may have.

If you haven’t already completed a Herbert Protocol form and would like more information or would like to learn more about how we care for people living with dementia in their own homes then please contact us for more information.