Website URL : http://www.wsx-donnington-pc.gov.uk/index.cfm?articleid=21984

New technology is transforming the lives of those with dementia

Introduction

A new piece of technology that can be attached to your house keys is helping to transform the lives of those with dementia. The Mindme locating device is monitored by Chichester Careline, which is run by Chichester District Council. The service supports those who are vulnerable, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Sussex Police has been so impressed with Mindme, that they are funding a number of devices for people with dementia who regularly go missing.


The device, which has already helped to save a number of lives, is a small GPS locator. If a person becomes lost or disorientated, they can be located through a dedicated website by their family, or Chichester Careline. The device sends details of its location to the website every four minutes, and is thought to be the smallest GPS locating device in this country.

A further version has also been created with a button that allows the user to speak directly to Chichester Careline. This version is now being used to provide reassurance to carers; lone workers; those who are recovering from an illness and those who are vulnerable, or at risk.

Gill Stoneham, from Fishbourne in Chichester, who has dementia, started using the Mindme locator after a neighbour found her disorientated and trying to cross the busy A27 roundabout. Her husband, Bernard, heard about the technology through a carers' support group and this proved to be invaluable.

"Gill regularly walks our dog around the same route in our local village. We had never experienced any problems. However, when she was found by a neighbour trying to cross the busy A27 roundabout, I realised we needed something," says Bernard.

"The week before, at meeting run by the Carers' Support West Sussex, the new technology and the services provided by Chichester Careline was discussed. I contacted Chichester Careline to find out about the new Mindme locating device. A member of the team came round to the house the next day and showed us how to use the device. Not only does it indicate position, but in an area with housing it gives the nearest house number and street.

"The very next day, I told Gill not to go too far and to do a short walk. Later, I went to our computer and logged in to make sure that she was taking her normal route. It indicated that she was heading towards the church and car park, which was in the opposite direction to that discussed. She was then stationary in the adjacent field for 11 minutes. I thought perhaps she was playing ball with the dog, but I felt it was best to drive to the church car park just in case. I looked for her over the Fishbourne meadows, where the locator indicated she had been, but there was no sign of her.

"I decided to check the footpath from the church to the main road, and as I did, I passed the entrance to a field where cattle had recently been. The entrance was very muddy and full of water. In the entrance I suddenly saw Gill, lying on the ground stuck in the mud. She was very distressed and had been physically sick. Without the locator I wouldn't have known where to look for her.

"Since then, we have been given the latest Mindme device with a button that links directly to Chichester Careline. This means that if Gill gets into difficulty, she can speak to the staff through the device. They can then contact me or other nominated persons with her position. All I can say is how grateful I am to have had the use of this piece of hi-tech wizardry and what a difference it makes at this difficult time in our lives."

According to the Alzheimer's Society, there are currently 800,000 people with dementia in the UK and there will be over a million people with dementia by 2021. This is becoming a growing problem for the Police, who are regularly called out to help find missing people. Sgt Suzie Mitchell from Sussex Police, believes that this type of technology is the way forward,

"We regularly have to search for missing people with dementia. It is heart breaking to see the torment that their families are put through- and to see the impact it has on the person with dementia when they are found. I know first-hand how hard it can be because one of my family members had dementia. I also know what a difference this technology will make to those with dementia and their families. We are really excited about our involvement in this project and the difference this could make to local people."

Chichester Careline is the only centre in the country, monitoring the devices. They are able to locate the person if they become lost - regardless of where they are in the world (as long as they have a mobile network). Information on the location of the person will only be provided to the carer or family once a series of security checks have been passed. This same procedure is on the website. The centre, which also monitors lone workers and other vulnerable groups of people, helped to get the idea off the ground.

Cllr Eileen Lintill, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Wellbeing and Community Services at Chichester District Council, can see the difference the devices are making:

"Hundreds of thousands of people across the country have dementia. This solution gives both those with dementia and their families the confidence and reassurance they need. The latest model, also allows customers to speak to us directly by pressing a button.

"This can be used by anyone who wants to maintain their independence, but have the reassurance that someone is always around to help them."

The devices cost £27.50 per month. This price includes Chichester Careline monitoring the device 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and provides access to the users and carers.

Chichester Careline can be contacted on 01243 778688 or by emailing communitycareline@chichester.gov.uk. Further information about Mindme can be found at www.mindme.co.uk