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Dementia patients urged to wear tracking devices as search for elderly Auckland woman suspended

Police are encouraging dementia patients to wear tracking devices, after officers suspended their search for missing Auckland woman Pat Wearn.

Pat Wearn has been missing since last Monday and police have called off the search. Source: 1 NEWS

Mrs Wearn has Alzheimer's disease and hasn't been seen for a week, since leaving her North Shore home to go for a planned walk.

Police have canvassed every place imaginable, but the week-long search has turned up no trace of Mrs Wearn.

Medical experts told police that the 73-year-old Alzheimer's sufferer could not reasonably be expected to still be alive.

It's a sad fact, but police say callouts to look for missing people with dementia, which includes Alzheimer's, is a regular occurrence. 

"It's not uncommon for us to be dealing with up to about two of these cases a day in Auckland," said Inspector Vaughn Graham, Auckland City Police operations manager. 

Inherent memory loss means six out of 10 people with dementia do wander, and police say they encourage patients to wear a tracking device. 

While Mrs Wearn wasn't wearing one, a beacon using GPS, or the more preferred radio frequency, means people who do wander are more easily located.

"It's giving out a pulse every three or four seconds. The client cannot hear it but with the receiver unit, once the frequency is dialled in, then it will start picking up that pulse," Delanie Halton, Wander Search Programme manager explained. 

Ten elderly people were successfully found in Auckland alone over the Christmas period using the device.

It's estimated more than 60,000 New Zealanders live with dementia, a number that's expected to triple by 2050.

Dementia Auckland chief executive Rod Perkins says we tend to think most of the worry is around the welfare of children, but "I can tell you there's huge worry around the welfare of people with dementia".

While the search for Mrs Wearn has been suspended, the police investigation continues, a decision her family supports.