SPECIAL REPORT: The £5 wristbands that are making all the difference

The �5 wristband is being handed out to people with dementia so their families can be contacted in crises easily
The �5 wristband is being handed out to people with dementia so their families can be contacted in crises easily
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All out of microwavable meals, Ann Walker put some bacon and potatoes in the oven and settled down to watch television.

The 75-year-old, who lives alone in Beechfield Avenue, Preesall, flicked between channels and began watching the series finale of Inside London Fire Brigade.

Ann Walker and her daughter Jayne Davis

Ann Walker and her daughter Jayne Davis

An alarm sounded as a young rookie was put to the test fighting his first real fire – but at around 9.30pm, when the show came to a break, the alarm continued.

Ann, who has been living with dementia for the past two years, had forgotten about her tea, which had burned and flooded her home with smoke.

Alerted by the alarm, a woman’s voice came over a PA system installed in Ann’s home to help her live independently. Moments later, firefighters from Blackpool were scrambled.

“The lady spoke to me and said get outside, but I couldn’t because of the smoke. I couldn’t get to the front door,” Mrs Walker said.

Ann Walker meets the firefighters who came to her aid and were able to contact her daughter, Jane Davies, thanks to a NFC bracelet from The Good Deeds Trust.  They are pictured with firefighters Michael Clueit, Patrick Thompson and Chris Moreton.

Ann Walker meets the firefighters who came to her aid and were able to contact her daughter, Jane Davies, thanks to a NFC bracelet from The Good Deeds Trust. They are pictured with firefighters Michael Clueit, Patrick Thompson and Chris Moreton.

“When the smoke died down, I went outside and waited for the fire brigade to come.”

White watch arrived to find her crying, shaking, and traumatised as she sat outside while smoke escaped through the kitchen doorway.

Firefighter Michael Clueit was the first to recognise the confused pensioner, who has lived in the village for around a decade, was wearing a revolutionary piece of kit – a Guardian Angel wristband.

“This signified to us that she could be suffering from some form of dementia,” watch manager Pat Thompson said.

“Having luckily received some training just the day before, Mr Clueit used his mobile phone to access the data contained on the bracelet.

Costing just £5, the bracelets contain digital information that can be gleaned using a smart phone, in case of emergencies just like these, and were rolled out across the county following a trial in Wyre, funded by Fleetwood Rotary Club.

Mr Thompson said: “Ann was uninjured but shaken from her ordeal and the Guardian Angels device allowed the fire crews to access very quickly a familiar face to help calm and reassure her.”

That face belonged to Jayne Davis, Ann’s daughter, who travelled the short distance from her home in Barrington Close, Hambleton, to be by her mother’s side.

She said: “They said, ‘Don’t worry, your mum has had a fire but she’s okay, the house is full of smoke, and could you get down because she is very shaken?’

“She was crying and shaking and got even more confused because there were lots of people about.

“It shook me up. It could have been a lot worse but thankfully it wasn’t.”

The firefighters who helped Mrs Walker returned to her home on Friday to promote the use of the wristbands, which are being given away for free by the fire service.

Community safety advisor at Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, Julie Simpson, said the main cause of fires in the county is cooking, followed by electrical items, and then smoking, which remains the biggest killer.

“With cooking, at one time it was around chip pans and people leaving them on,” she said.

“Now we are seeing an increase, particularly with older people, in distraction fires.

“I attended a dementia cafe in Cleveleys a couple of years ago, and the Good Deeds trust – which makes the devices – were there with the Guardian Angels.”

Impressed, Julie launched a small trial with the wristbands, before taking them to headquarters. Funding was secured, and around 75 have already been handed out, with around 1,000 more in stock.

Mrs Walker was given hers after visiting a dementia awareness event at Preesall Fire Station in May.

And while she said not having one may not have changed the outcome of the fire, she said it helped get hold of Mrs Walker’s daughter – and helps maintain her independence.

Ms Simpson added: “We couldn’t get hold of her next of kin. There was nothing in the household and Ann was distressed at what happened.

“It speeded up the process of contacting her next of kin for her, and allowed us to get a member of her family to her to comfort her, rather than her being left on her own.

“Ann is still quite independent and likes to get out on her own, but there’s times she can get a bit lost.

“It’s supporting her mentally as well. If she couldn’t get out and was stuck in the house, she could become socially isolated.

“This gives her confidence that somebody can call her family when she is out and about. It gives her reassurance and she can continue to live independently.”

Jayne, 51, whose father Arthur died a decade ago, said the Guardian Angels wristband has made a real difference to her mother’s life.

She said: “She is a very proud woman. She is finding it hard now because they have taken her driving licence off her, and she can get confused when she gets the bus.

“At the dentist they helped her because she had the wristband.”

Ann added: “I have lived in this village for years and I know everybody, but they don’t know my situation because it’s only the third year I have had it, and I can still do lots of things.

“I remember quite a bit but sometimes I can’t, and I stay in bed then.

“It’s a wonderful scheme they have got, and I just hope it gets noticed. It’s going to help lots and lots of people.

“That’s the good thing about it.”

To enquire about the devices, call the fire service for a free home fire safety check on 0800 169 11 25.