By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
It was on a cold day in December that a senior found wandering in Pickering was brought to the police station. He was trying to get home – the problem, though, was that his home was nearly 40 km away in Bowmanville.
“He was walking to Bowmanville from Pickering, and he wasn’t dressed for the conditions. In his mind, he knew his address where he had lived for over 50 years in Bowmanville, and he had wandered away from a seniors’ home,” Staff Sgt. Lox Colquhuon tells The Oshawa Express. “He was returned because someone saw him. We were able to access his information, find a caregiver and found out where he actually lived. He was returned before they knew he was missing.”
What made the man easier to identify and, therefore, return to where he needed to be was his MedicAlert bracelet.
It is through tales such as these that Durham police is teaming up with MedicAlert in a partnership that will help get more missing persons home safely.
The partnership, the first of its kind in Canada, should make things easier for police when dealing with the approximately 1,500 missing persons cases it gets each year.
“Every year, we respond to hundreds of missing person calls. Although many are young teenagers and people that just want to have a little bit of freedom, a growing number are seniors and in the vulnerable community,” said Chief of Police Paul Martin during a news conference announcing the new program. “With our aging demographics across this country – and Durham Region’s no exception – it becomes more and more of an issue for us.”
The program works by giving police access to MedicAlert’s database, allowing officers to be given up-to-date information to help find the person.
“There’s a unique ID number on the back of the bracelet,” said Colquhuon, who came up with the idea of a partnership. “The officer would report that into the communications branch, and they would access the database using that ID number. That will give us information, picture, who the caregiver is and where the caregiver is…as well as any distinguishing features that person might have. Also, if the person is non-verbal, we can then find their caregiver through that ID number.”
Colquhuon adds that the program will be used only for emergency purposes and to help people get home, and not be used for investigative purposes.