Dementia advocacy groups yesterday urged the government and the public to take action against the rising number of incidents of people with dementia going missing, citing Taipei City Government statistics showing 179 incidents last year.
Fang Ting-gung (方定工), an officer at Nangang Police Station in Taipei, said on Sunday last week that older people with dementia might be “mentally stuck” in a time long ago, leading them to think that they must go to work.
This might happen in the middle of the night or in bad weather, which might imperil their physical health, he added.
Photo copied by Cheng Ming-hsiang, Taipei Times
While police use a facial recognition system to identify people with dementia they have picked up, the system only finds matches for about 50 percent of them, as there are no recent photos of them available in the system, Fang said.
Police officers might have to go from door to door to find a missing person’s home, he said.
Fang urged people with relatives with dementia to outfit them with tracker bracelets and install devices that prevent them from leaving home unaccompanied.
There are about 8,700 people with dementia in Taipei, but the Taipei Department of Health has only received 1,751 applications for tracker bracelets, or a 20 percent uptake, the department said.
It would continue to promote the bracelet program, collaborate with the police to establish a fingerprint database and is considering a subsidy for GPS devices for people with dementia, the department said.
Taiwan Alzheimer Disease Association secretary-general Tang Li-yu (湯麗玉) said that the families of people with dementia should adopt multiple measures, including updating the family member’s ID card with a recent photograph.
They should also notify neighbors that they have a family member with dementia so that they can help them if they wander off, Tang said.
They should also consider using daycare services, he said.
Federation for the Welfare of the Elderly secretary-general Chang Shu-ching (張淑卿) said that tracker bracelets have over the past few years become safer and more fashionable.
However, Taipei’s bracelet program is not integrated with those of other municipalities, and changing that would make it more efficient, Chang said.
The central government should increase efforts to educate the public on dementia, as the condition is expected to become more prevalent in Taiwan’s aging society.
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