Supporting a Loved One who Keeps Going Missing

There are all sorts of reasons why people go missing. It is generally a sign that something is wrong. For some people, going missing can be a way of managing something in their life that they don’t feel able to cope with. Going missing can also be a result of addiction, a mental health condition or an illness such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Much of the advice and support available for the loved ones of missing people assume that going missing will be an isolated event. However, that’s not always the case. In some situations, an unresolved problem can lead to someone going missing again and again. 

When an individual goes missing repeatedly it can be incredibly hard, both for them and for the people around them. If you’re trying to support a loved one who keeps going missing, it can be difficult to know how best to help them. 

First of all, if you believe your loved one to be at risk, it’s important to report their disappearance to the police every time it happens. The police will then be able to keep track of the situation. They may also be able to refer the case to a relevant support agency, who will aim to work with the individual and those around them to resolve the situation. 

There may also be some legal steps you can take to better support a loved one in situations like these. 

Applying for Guardianship

If your loved one is missing, you can apply to the High Court for a guardianship order. This would allow you to manage the missing person’s property and finances while they were missing. As a guardian, you would be able to ensure things such as the missing person’s rent, mortgage and bills were being handled in their absence.

All guardianship orders are considered on an individual basis, and you’ll need to consider, with your solicitor, whether an application for guardianship is the right way forward in your case. If an application is made, the Court will consider what is in the missing person’s best interest in the situation.

Using a Power of Attorney

If you have a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, you may already have a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) in place to support them with decisions they are no longer able to make themselves. If so the LPA may give you the legal right to make decisions about how to prevent your loved one from going missing in order to keep them safe.

For example, you might decide that it’s in the best interest of your loved one for them to have more support at home, or even for them to move to a care home where they will have round the clock supervision. This might be the best decision if your loved one keeps going missing and you are concerned that they are not able to properly look after themselves while they are gone.

Applying to the Court of Protection

If you believe that your loved one is struggling to make decisions for themselves due to an illness or mental health condition and that this is why they keep going missing, you may wish to take steps to put support in place for them. In these situations, it may be appropriate to  apply to the Court of Protection for assistance.  The Court of Protection could help to make a ‘one off’ decision on behalf of your loved one, such as whether they should be admitted to a hospital, care home or other treatment centre.  This might enable them to get the support they need to stop going missing.

Making provisions for the future

Caring for and supporting an individual who keeps going missing is a very big responsibility. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, you may be worried about what might happen to your loved one in the future. Some people find it reassuring to write a Will with provisions in place to ensure their loved ones would continue to be supported in the event of their death. 

Though it can be difficult to think about writing a Will, having such a document in place would likely make a big difference to your loved ones if it was needed. Not only would those around you be clear on what your wishes were and how to distribute your estate in accordance with them, it would also help to ensure that support was ring-fenced for any vulnerable family members that might need it in the future. A specialist solicitor will be able to talk you through the options for this, including setting up a trust for a loved one to ensure they would have funds available should they need them in the future. 

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