University of Waterloo researchers working on app to help find missing people with dementia

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The University of Waterloo says researchers from the school have teamed up with community leaders to develop a mobile alert app to assist in finding missing people who have dementia.

Noelannah Neubauer, a postdoctoral fellow at the school, said the project, which has been dubbed Community ASAP, is aimed at filling a void when it comes to alerts for missing elderly people as well as those who suffer from dementia in Canada.

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“We have Amber Alerts for missing children, but nothing for this population other than police and civilians circulating information via social media such as Twitter and Facebook,” Neubauer stated.

The school says there is a system in place south of the border called Silver Alert, while other provinces are also working to create a citizen-led alert system.

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Neubauer says that the volume of people in Canada who are living with dementia makes it impossible to simply send alerts on the Amber Alert system.

“The sheer number of missing people from this population would mean that alerts would go off multiple times a day in certain jurisdictions, running the risk of significant alert fatigue,” Neubauer 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.”

Lili Liu, Dean of the Faculty of Health at Waterloo, says that if missing people are not found within 24 hours, there is a 50 per cent chance they will be seriously injured or die.

“We proposed recommendations for community alert systems specific to Canada, such as Community ASAP, at an online national forum on community alert systems for missing older adults last fall,” she said.

The researchers worked with emergency services and public health officials in Alberta and B.C. to develop the app, as they tested a variety of iterations, working to make something both functional and accurate.

Down the road in Guelph, police have also launched another initiative last year in attempt to help find those who get lost that have Alzheimer’s, Autism or other forms of cognitive impairment.

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Read more: Dementia, Alzheimer’s most common disease associated with COVID-19 deaths: StatCan

Project Lifesaver uses bracelets with an FM radio frequency to track down missing people, and it works in buildings and nature as well.

Guelph Police say it has a 100 per cent success rate, finding people with 30 minutes, 95 per cent of the time.

There is a startup fee as well as a maintenance fee to join Project Lifesaver.

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