Keeping People Living with Dementia Safe

The risks

Some people who are living with dementia or Alzheimer’s may start walking or “wandering with purpose”. They may walk around their house, go outside or leave their home at unusual times of the day.

Whilst walking itself can be a beneficial activity that helps to relieve boredom, reduce stress and give a person a sense of independence, it can be a challenging and stressful issue for friends, family and carers of someone living with dementia.

When out walking, a person living with dementia may become confused or disorientated and struggle to find their way home. This may put the person in danger and can be a worrying time for friends and family who are concerned for the person’s safety.

Not everyone living with dementia will go missing, but it is important to plan ahead for this type of situation whilst continuing to allow someone to enjoy their independence and freedom for as long as it is safe to do so.

What can I do?

If a person living with dementia wants to walk then you should try to find a solution that lets them do so safely. You may want to consider the reasons why the person is walking to then explore options to help them do it safely.

Options to consider include:

  • Talking to neighbours and people in the community who you trust about your loved one. People in your community may be able to help keep your loved one safe if they are ever lost or confused. This could include friends, a shop keeper, bus driver or train station staff. It is not always obvious that a person is confused, lost or missing. However, members of your community may be more likely to consider this if you make them aware in advance.
  • Put your address and telephone number in a safe place on their person. This could include sewing your details in to an item of clothing, such as a coat, or placing a card inside their pocket or wallet.
  • Complete a Herbert Protocol form. A Herbert Protocol form can be used to record vital information that can be passed to the police and Search and Rescue if that person is reported missing.
  • Capture and store their scent. Order a scent kit, and use it to keep the scent of your loved one inside a jar so that, should they go missing and a Search Dog Hero be deployed, the scent can be used to launch the search quickly.
  • Seek support if you need to. Supporting a loved one living with Dementia can be challenging and there are a number of charities who can help and offer a range of guidance.

The Herbert Protocol

Included inside the scent capture kit is a Life History Form, which is based on the Herbert Protocol.

This form gives family members, friends and care staff the opportunity to record information about the person living with dementia such as their description, places they have lived before and the places that they might go missing. It is also encouraged to attach a recent photograph of the person to the form.

Download a Life History Form.

By completing this form now, important information is already available to be given immediately to the police and search teams if that person does go missing. if you would like more information about the Herbert Protocol, or you would like to request a longer and more detailed form, please contact your local police force.


Search Dog Heroes can send you a scent kit ready to be filled with your loved ones details