New technology which helped save a disorientated Fishbourne dementia sufferer is being backed by Sussex Police in a UK first.
A locator called Mindme, which is monitored by Chichester Careline, the only centre in the country to use the device, helped Bernard Stoneham to track down his wife Gill when she got lost out walking their dog.
“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,” he said.
“At a meeting run by the Carers’ Support West Sussex, the new technology and the services provided by Chichester Careline was discussed.
“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 she was taking her normal route.
“It indicated 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.”
He said the up-to-date device, a small GPS locator which can be attached to your house keys, has genuinely helped transform their lives.
“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,” he added.
POLICE ARE IMPRESSED
The Mindme device sends details of its location to the website every four minutes, and is thought to be the smallest GPS locating device in the UK.
A further version has also been created with a button that allows the user to speak directly to Chichester Careline, which is run by Chichester District Council.
And Sussex Police has been so impressed with its benefits, it is funding a number of devices for people with dementia who regularly go missing.
Sgt Suzie Mitchell from Sussex Police believes this type of technology is the way forward for the 800,000 people with dementia in the UK.
“We regularly have to search for missing people with dementia,” she said.
“It is heartbreaking 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.”
And the Mindme offers more freedom to sufferers, as well as peace of mind for those around them, agrees Eileen Lintill, cabinet member for leisure, wellbeing and community services at Chichester District Council.
“This solution gives both those with dementia and their families the confidence and reassurance they need,” she said.
“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, which includes Chichester Careline monitoring the device 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and provides access to the users and carers.
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.
For more details, click here.
GIVE IT A TRY
Chichester Careline is giving Observer readers the chance to try either its Mindme locator or Careline unit free for a month. After the first month, normal costs will apply. Only one voucher can be used per household.
In order to take advantage of this offer, pick up a copy of the paper and cut out your voucher - you just need to call 01243 778688 and mention the Observer offer. You must hand over your voucher when your equipment is delivered. You can use this voucher between April 25 and May 9. Terms and conditions apply.