Our Member Gerard Doran outlines how our members worked with the PSNI to introduce the Herbert Protocol to NI and explains why he thinks everyone who lives with dementia should complete the form...
I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and shortly afterwards I became a member of Dementia NI. Part of Dementia NI’s purpose is to improve support for people with dementia in Northern Ireland and it’s been very interesting and inspiring to work with the police to develop the Herbert Protocol.
For me the Herbert Protocol is a major support. Like many people with Dementia, I experience memory loss, forgetfulness and sometimes confusion, especially with regards to being able to recognise faces and places. For example, I have travelled to Banbridge throughout my life for work and shopping, but these days I have to use my car’s GPS system to travel here and even then, I am unable to recognise the streets or places I have spent many happy times in. When I walk around various towns and places nowadays, I can easily lose my way.
I also have trouble finding shops and other places I’ve visited before in my hometown of Lurgan. Sometimes I even find it hard to find where my friends, sisters and brothers live. I can find my way around my local park because I go walking there a few times a week. But if I haven’t been to a place for some time, then it’s hard to find.
Although sometimes I struggle to recognise my surroundings, I haven’t become massively lost yet or experienced an injury while out and about. When I get a bit lost, I always ring my wife or a friend and they help me get back home.
But I’m afraid that at some stage I may get totally lost. My phone is my treasure in my pocket but sometimes I think to myself, “What happens if my wife can’t ring me or find me?” That’s why to me the Herbert Protocol is so helpful. It's another tool to help me stay safe.
Alongside other Dementia NI members, I worked closely with the police to develop the Herbert Protocol form. We felt that the Herbert Protocol was an essential thing to have in Northern Ireland and we were delighted to work with the PSNI on it. Once the PSNI produced the form, I reviewed it with the other members and advised on what needed to be included and on how to make it accessible for people with dementia.
Reminiscence is very important to people with dementia. Filling in the Herbert Protocol form is a great exercise in reminiscence. The questions on the form get you thinking about places that are important to you – for example, it made me recall how much I love going to the Mournes. I sat down with my wife to fill in the form – she helped me fill in questions about schools I attended and other bits where I was forgetful.
I think it’s so important to spread the word about the Herbert Protocol. If you know someone who lives with dementia, make sure they get a Herbert Protocol form. It will help them to stay a little more active and it could even save their life.