Finding a better way

Supt Steve Scott and Melville’s council community development officer Naomi Christensen. Photo supplied.

MELVILLE has become the first council to sign up to a WA Police initiative that helps track down missing people with medical conditions such as dementia.

Launched on August 12, Safe and Found is a collaboration between police and the Medic Alert Foundation, a not-for-profit famous for its life-saving bracelets and necklaces that let medicos know your allergies and other conditions.

Safe and Found helps police track missing people down by providing members with an ID bracelet with family and police contact details, as well as providing police an up-to-date photo and medical information.

The Initiative was developed by WA Police superintendent Steve Scott who noticed “one of the most prevalent” types of searches was for people with dementia. 

“Previously WA Police would talk to families or carers as part of our response to the search however this was not the best model as families or carers were often distressed and unable to provide all the information we might need to plan our search operation,” Supt Scott said.

“I knew there had to be a better way for families and police to be better prepared.” 

So far, the Initiative has helped locate three missing people and return them home quick and safe. 

The first was for 74-year-old Harrisdale resident Richard Hoogewerf on September 13. 

Mr Hoogewerf has dementia and had been reported missing by his wife Margaret. 

“They had his profile already when I phoned the police and she took my name, she said ‘yeah I can see there’s an alert there’,” Ms Hoogewerf said.

“So, they had a picture of him and straight away they put it out to the Canning Vale Police and the police were here in about 10 or 15 minutes of my phone call and it seemed like they had air search and everything going very, very quickly.”

Originally hesitant of signing up because of the couple’s independence, Ms Hoogewerf says she was swayed by the benefit and became one of Safe and Found’s first members. 

“I’m just so grateful we have an amazing police force and they’re very kind, they’re not judgemental or anything because obviously I felt guilty that I’d let him go but they were going ‘don’t, we understand’, just very grateful,” Ms Hoogewerf said.

Melville council has offered its residents subsidised membership through its Age Friendly Assistance Fund.

Mayor George Gear said the city was committed to supporting its community to live well with dementia, as well as supporting measures to prevent its onset.

“The City of Melville has the second highest number of people living with dementia compared to other local governments in WA and so we recognise the importance of being an age-friendly city,” Mr Gear said.

There have been 138 searches by WA police for dementia patients this year, which is expected to rise to 150 by the end of the year.

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