Aging, especially in late life, is not a beautiful process for everyone. For many it causes a lot of suffering, including dementia. While the problems of aging still cannot be solved, scientists are developing tools to make it at least a little bit less painful. Researchers at the University of Waterloo are developing a mobile app, called “Community ASAP”, which should help locate missing people with dementia.
Dementia destroys a person’s ability to orient himself in time and space, which is why people with dementia are always at a risk of getting lost even if they are walking in familiar streets. And that’s where the Community ASAP app could be helpful.
In North America there is a special public messaging system called Amber Alert, informing people about missing children. Silver Alert in the US is a similar system to help efforts to find missing older people. But scientists in Canada wanted to create something that would be citizen-led and would not piggyback on Amber Alerts. Researchers estimate that almost 750 thousand Canadians live with dementia so it is very important to find a way to search for them if they get lost.
Community ASAP is actually a relatively simple system. People in the community have to sign up to receive the alert on Android and iOS devices and choose the radius from which they want to get information about missing people. This would help kickstart efforts to find missing people quicker. It is very important to start looking for missing people with dementia immediately because they have a 50 % chance of getting seriously hurt or killed within 24 hours. Usually people with dementia do not wander too far from home, but finding them still requires some effort.
Scientists engaged people living with dementia, their care providers and rescue organizations to develop the Community ASAP app. They had to make three iterations of the app to encompass all possible scenarios. Noelannah Neubauer, one of the developers of the app, said: “Community ASAP gets around this by having people sign up to receive the alert on Android and iOS operating systems and choosing the radius from where the missing person was last seen to their current location. Most missing cases take place one kilometre from the place they were last seen.” Obviously, it is important that the app is easy to use and people know about it. But time will tell if it will spread and become a crucial tool in dementia care.
We’re all going towards the direction of getting old. It is not an individual problem – it is a public health concern. This just means that we should address it as a community. If possible, you should know when you’re needed to help someone slightly confused in his own area.
Source: University of Waterloo