George Herbert was a World War 2 Normandy war veteran who developed dementia in later life. One day, Mr Herbert went missing from his care home whilst trying to find his childhood home…and sadly died before he could be found.

This tragic but all too common story has become a catalyst for change. For the death of George Herbert led to a nationwide scheme, designed to help police find vulnerable people fast if they go missing, and appropriately named The Herbert Protocol.

The scheme began in Norfolk, where Mr Herbert lived, and idea was simple: Families and carers were asked to fill in a form containing useful information about their loved one with dementia, which could then be used by police if they were to go missing.

It proved very effective and two years later, has been rolled out by police authorities nationwide. The scheme has also been widely welcomed by care professionals, dementia experts and families on the dementia journey. Why? Because it makes sense. When a person with dementia goes missing, time is precious, particularly during the cold winter months. Therefore, the more information police have about them, the more efficiently they can search. But gathering this sort of information at a point of crisis ( when a loved one has just gone missing and family and friends are very upset) can be difficult.

What makes The Herbert Protocol so successful is that it encourages families, friends and care professionals to think ahead and be prepared, just in case the worst should happen. They’re asked to fill in a form which includes lots of detailed information about a vulnerable loved one, (including a photograph, medication details, places they like to visit, as well as details about their past, where they went to school, where they got married and places and people they might want to try and visit again. The form is then stored safely at home and passed straight on to police if the person should go missing, saving valuable time.

Get involved: To become part of the Herbert Protocol, go to your local Police Authority’s website (for example West Yorkshire Police, Essex Police, Merseyside Police) then search ‘Herbert Protocol’ and download a form.

3 ways to stop the person you love from going missing

It’s always better to prevent a crisis rather than live through one…here’s how to keep someone with dementia safe at home:

1- Keep them busy
If they’ve had a productive day, including some stimulating activities and physical exercise, they’re far less likely to feel restless or agitated, which is often why people with dementia decide to go out on their own.

Tip: Stimulate their mind and memory with a simple puzzle book, designed specifically for people with dementia. Go here to find out more about Puzzles & Pastimes.

2- Remove ‘outdoor’ reminders
Keep coats, boots, umbrellas and shopping bags out of sight. You could even cover the front door with a curtain or place a dark rug in front of it (Dementia can bring visual challenges and dark surfaces can look like holes).

3- Consider a tracker
GPS tracking devices are growing increasing popular amongst families on the dementia journey, and it’s easy to see why. A tracking device can stop everyone panicking if a loved one goes missing, because it can provide quick, accurate information about their whereabouts to within around 10 metres. Best of all, tracking devices are becoming more and more affordable. We’ve created a GPS tracker buying guide to help you pick the right tracker for you and your budget. 

Want to read more on this subject? Here’s 3 more articles you might find interesting:

Dementia’s dirty secrets #1: When carers lock up their loved ones

Finding Archie

Walking with purpose: Why do people with dementia wander?