THUNDER BAY – The new Ontario Government, in partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Ontario, recently launched a groundbreaking safety awareness program for people with dementia who may go missing. Finding Your Way, a new wandering prevention program funded by the Ontario Government, will help prevent people with dementia from “wandering” and going missing, and also help caregivers and other family members prepare for such incidents, if they occur.
Nearly 200,000 Ontarians have dementia and over 3,200 people living in Northwestern Ontario. Locally, these numbers represent an increase of more than 6 percent over the past four years. By 2020, nearly 250,000 seniors in Ontario (3,700 in Thunder Bay) will be living with some form of dementia. Statistics show that three out of five people with dementia go missing at some point, often without warning. There is greater risk of injury, even death, for those missing for more than 24 hours. Having a plan in place and knowing how to protect the individual is a must for caregivers.
The Finding Your Way safety kit contains information to help families create personalized safety plans. The kit includes:
- An identification kit with space for a recent photo and physical description that can be shared with police in an emergency
- At-home safety steps to help prevent missing incidents from occurring
- Steps to safeguard a person with dementia, such as using the Alzheimer Society of Canada’s MedicAlert® Safely Home® program
- Tips on what to do when a person with dementia goes missing and when reuniting after a wandering incident
- The latest information on locating devices
Ontario is also providing funding for the Ontario Police College to develop and deliver police training that incorporates wandering prevention into the current police curriculum.
Marg Baxter of Thunder Bay knows the value of a program like Finding Your Way. “Three years ago my husband Paul, who has dementia, went for a walk and didn’t come home. It took over two hours to find him. You never know when it is going to happen and it is so important to take action before it does. The Finding Your Way safety kit would have helped me understand how to safely plan and prevent him from wandering. I would advise any caregiver to connect with the Alzheimer Society of Thunder Bay to obtain a safety kit.”