A Lifeline for Wandering Dementia Patients: MedicAlert’s Connect Protect Program

Police on site at an emergency

“There is a famous call that still brings tears to my eyes” said Peter Lawrence a dedicated member of the MedicAlert team.

“I was listening to a call, and this gentleman found an elderly woman wandering on a bridge with no ID. One of the first things our operators do, is call the emergency contact and conference the call. The good Samaritan was talking to our subscriber’s daughter, and you can hear her saying ‘oh my God, you found her, the police have been looking for her for hours,’…it was such an emotional call”.

For Lawrence, these success stories are one of the best parts of his job. As Manager, First Responder Partnerships and Community Engagement, his focus is working with first responders and the Connect Protect program to help those in need receive the appropriate care in an emergency.

These happy stories owe their success to two crucial factors. In this case, the disorientated woman was a MedicAlert subscriber who was wearing her blue emblem ID bracelet, which signified she had dementia. The good Samaritan who found her was able to call the number on the back and get help quickly through our hotline. The second factor is MedicAlert’s Connect Protect program, which grants all Canadian police services access to our subscriber health information data base.

When someone is missing, time is of the essence. Teaching first responders and dispatch operators how to recognize and help a person with dementia who is wandering, is crucial to their safety. Lawrence spearheaded the creation of this training platform, and in 2022, MedicAlert joined forces with the Canadian Police Knowledge Network (CPKN) so they could reach a wider audience within the police community. Currently, MedicAlert works with 18 police services across Canada, all of whom have completed this training and are enrolled in our Connect Protect program. We expect to have more forces on board by the end of the year.

This training equips officers to swiftly access a situation and all the vital information required to find a person and safely them bring them home. “They learn to look for the MedicAlert ID, read the information on the back, then call their dispatch to gain more information including emergency contacts,” explained Lawrence. “Our database houses all the medical information plus for individuals living with dementia, we have the triggers and de-escalation techniques because sometimes when a front-line officer approaches someone, they become agitated at certain things… so they know how to calm the person down.” He added, “we do have the wandering history, and the possible wandering locations on file so it’s a robust database of the health information of the MedicAlert subscriber.”

According to Lawrence’s data, 40 per cent of phone calls to MedicAlert’s hotline are wandering incidents. An alarming statistic that is expected to rise. “A lot of people who are wandering don’t have any identification on them, they aren’t dressed for the weather, all they have is their blue emblem I.D.” explained Lawrence. “So police in our program are trained to look for the blue emblem I.D.”

What does this mean for people with dementia and their caregivers? This means they can live with an added sense of peace, knowing if their loved one goes missing and is found with their MedicAlert I.D., all relevant information can be accessed by first responders to ensure they get home safely. For Peter Lawrence, it’s all in a day’s work.