Elderly Dementia Care: The Herbert Protocol 

People with dementia or Alzheimer’s can sometimes wander out of their homes if they become confused or disoriented. They often don’t remember their current home and might leave the house looking for a person or a home they recognise and identify as their own, like a home they grew up in or lived in for a long time. This can be distressing for their family and loved ones, especially if it happens often.

The Herbert Protocol 

The Herbert Protocol has been developed to support vulnerable people and their families when a person with dementia, cognitive difficulties, or other types of memory loss goes missing or is prone to wandering.

The protocol is named after a Normandy Landings war veteran, George Herbert who suffered from dementia and frequently left his care home. Sadly George died while missing, looking for his childhood home.

The Herbert Protocol encourages carers, care providers and family members to complete a form, in advance, recording vital details about the vulnerable person. It includes their contact details, health requirements, medications, a recent photo of them and places they have previously been found. When a person goes missing the form is handed to the police to save time gathering this vital information.

Who completes the form? 

Family carers, care homes, supported living and home care providers can complete the form.

How do I obtain a copy of the form? 

Each police force has its own version of the form so contact the police force nearest to where your loved one lives. You can also find the form online if you search Herbert Protocol followed by the city or town nearest to where the person lives, i.e. Cumbria Police Herbert Protocol

What should be recorded on the form? 

If possible, you should include your loved one when completing the form. You might want to involve other people from their past too so that you can gather historical information that would be relevant, such as old addresses, places they used to enjoy visiting etc. If you can, you should complete the form digitally so you can easily share and update it.

The form will ask you to complete details such as:

  • Name, nickname, date of birth, and contact details
  • Description of the person including any distinguishing features
  • Their daily routine and locations
  • Hobbies and interests
  • Weekly and monthly appointments
  • Previous home addresses and workplaces
  • Schools, colleges and universities attended.
  • Any location they may have an emotional attachment to
  • Any particular risk factors, mobility, mental health concerns etc.

You will need to include up-to-date photos of your loved one with the form. Don’t worry if you cannot provide all the details. Not all of the questions will be relevant to the person you care for.

When the form is completed:

  • Provide a copy with photos to the local police and make a note of when you provided it to them
  • Store it digitally if possible so that you can make several copies and give them to the neighbours and friends of your loved one
  • Be aware that you may need to update the form as circumstances change so keep a note of the date you last completed it

What should I do if a person with dementia goes missing? 

If you are unable to find the person this is what you should do but please, try not to panic. When the situation is resolved, try to relax. Phone a member of the family or a friend if you need to talk to someone about how you are feeling.

You should:

  • Call 999 when a person goes missing. Sometimes people feel embarrassed or don’t want to bother the police but the earlier they are alerted the easier it will be for them to find the person
  • Tell the police you have completed the Herbert Protocol form
  • Let them know where the person was last seen or known to have been
  • Let the police know if the person has been missing before and the places they were found
  • Tell them about your loved one’s emotional state before they went missing


Further information:

The Alzheimer’s Society offers useful resources and advice about dementia including support groups like ‘Singing For the Brain’. Dementia UK provides information leaflets about the different types of dementia. You can also take part in their fundraising events and campaigns.

Any Questions?

Join our care and support group, Care Begins at Home to connect with others caring for a loved one or to ask our experts a question.