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Police and fire service launch wearable tech initiative to help people affected by dementia

A picture of the Police and fire Dementia safeguarding band

A wearable tech wristband for helping people with dementia has been launched on the BBC Crimewatch Roadshow.

Sergeant Stuart King and Darren French from Avon Fire & Rescue were interviewed live on the show about the new initiative, which is the latest part of the ongoing Dementia Safeguarding Scheme that helps to protect vulnerable elders.

Using Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, the wristband stores essential information about the wearer, including their name and details of next of kin. The information can be accessed via the NFC app when a mobile is held nearby, alleviating the need for physical contact which can cause further distress. This information can be used by emergency services, health professionals or community members to get the wearer back to safety should they be found whilst lost or confused.

The initiative is a collaboration between the Senior Citizen Liaison Team (charity), Avon & Somerset Police and Avon Fire & Rescue Service. Between them they have provided initial funding for 750 wristbands which will be distributed across the community.

Sergeant Stuart King, who leads the Dementia Safeguarding Scheme and is a member of the Senior Citizen Liaison Team Charity, said: “Throughout my policing carer, I’ve encountered many situations where people with Dementia are lost and confused, some of which sadly ended in tragic circumstances. It’s often an upsetting experience for the lost person and whilst we try to work quickly and sensitively to get them home, it can be challenging for us to find out who they are and where they live.

“I’ve been involved in related schemes for around seven years. I really care about finding better ways to serve elders with dementia whilst treating them with the compassion and dignity they deserve. Whilst this isn’t a replacement for good care, this tech is cheap and accessible, so I’ve got high hopes this will make a difference.”

“This is the latest addition to our Dementia Safeguarding Scheme, which also has a GPS tracking element, as well as the ‘Avon and Somerset Dementia Forum’ which is an active Facebook group and we would invite the public to visit to find out more”.

Darren French, Community Fire Safety Watch Manager at Avon Fire and Rescue says; “We take an active role in protecting the most vulnerable people in our community whilst conducting home fire safety visits. These visits give us the opportunity to asses any risks to the individual and get them the help they need.

“We’ve ordered around 750 bands and will be piloting the scheme in the Bristol and Avon area. My team will be visiting to households who may benefit from a wristband, getting them set up and then working with our blue light partners to help keep them safe.”

Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens: “According to the Alzheimer’s Society there are around 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia. The Dementia Safeguarding Scheme is a fantastic way of protecting so many vulnerable people who suffer from this horrible disease. I welcome any opportunity to think differently how we can work together to prevent vulnerable adults from becoming another ‘missing person’.

“We all have a duty to protect our community and I am confident that the introduction of these new wrist bands will encourage local residents to look out for vulnerable people who may be at risk. I hope that these devices will provide reassurance to families and friends who may be worried about loved ones at risk.”

Bristol Dementia Action Alliance (BDAA) Chairman, Tony Hall, says; “This wristband helps to protect and safeguard those vulnerable people with dementia in our society. It is a positive response to an age old problem and moves to bring about a more caring society. We at BDAA are very glad to be involved in this pilot, as our aim is to make Bristol ‘The Dementia Friendly City of the UK’”.

The passive device is not used for tracking and contains non-personal data to ensure the safety of the wearer. Anyone who downloads the NFC app on their phone can retrieve information from the wristband meaning getting someone to safety doesn’t always require intervention by emergency services.