Understanding how to help people with dementia stay safe when going outside

Read a research project we funded into Staying Safe 'Going Out': Enacted Narrative Research

Lead Investigator: Professor Charlotte Clarke  
Institution: University of Edinburgh
Grant type: PhD
Duration: 36 months
Amount:  £72,921 

Why did we fund this project?

Comments from members of our Research Network:

'An interesting proposal, which … could shed light upon some of the uncertainties and restrictions experienced by the person with dementia when 'going out''

'People with dementia do struggle with 'going out' and with many other changes to their daily routine, hopefully this study would provide data to combat their fears and lead to a better lifestyle'

'A very practical proposal with potential for improved understanding of independent outings by people with dementia. This could result in developing methods enabling people with dementia to go out and stay safe'

What do we already know?

People with dementia are among those most at risk of going missing and make up a large proportion of the 300,000 people reported missing to the police each year. This can be dangerous for the person affected, take up a lot of police resources and can be extremely distressing for the person’s carers and family members. 

Many people with dementia or their carers are afraid that they may go missing and this can lead to the person with dementia being unable to leave the house. This can have a profound negative impact on their quality of life. 

Whilst it is well known that many people with dementia go missing, we still do not understand what thoughts and strategies the person uses when they become lost. For example, it is unclear how a person with dementia tries to relocate themselves when they become lost. 

What does this project involve?

The project aims to understand the decisions of people affected by dementia when they go outside, and find out more about their experiences if they have been missing. This will be done by holding interviews and focus groups with people affected by dementia and their carers. The participants will also be shown a film that documents a person going outside and getting lost. They will then be able to discuss aspects of this film and how it has affected them. 

Part of the project will involve the researchers going out for a walk with the person with dementia along a familiar route. This will help the researchers to understand what strategies the person uses to find their way. This will include taking photographs of any landmarks that they use to help them. 
The researchers hope that the knowledge they gain from this project will help them to create a resource that can be used by carers, police officers and healthcare professionals. This resource will aid them in understanding how to keep people with dementia safe when they go outside. 

How will this benefit people with dementia?

Being able to go outside is something that many of us take for granted, and an inability to do this can have a profound impact on our wellbeing. However, the fear of a person with dementia getting lost can cause a lot of distress and anxiety for carers. By understanding the processes that people with dementia use when going outside, the researchers hope to uncover more about what happens when a person with dementia leaves the house. This understanding will help a wide range of people to help those affected by dementia to go outside safely. 

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