More than 5 million individuals in the US and 500,000 Canadians suffer from a form of dementia, and as the population ages an increase of 40% is expected within the next decade. Alzheimer’s, the progressive brain disorder causing memory loss accounts for more than half of all dementia cases. Treatment can help to an extent to lessen the affects, but there is still no cure.
Alzheimer’s sufferers are slowly stripped of their independence as they become not just forgetful but genuinely disoriented and confused causing stress and anxiety to themselves and to loved ones and caregivers. It’s not unusual for a person with Alzheimer’s disease to believe they need to pick up the kids from school or are on their way to work, and this feeling of urgency may happen at any time of day or night. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that six out of ten individuals with Alzheimer’s wander away at some point.
Police Services on board trialing GPS Tracking
New initiatives and technologies that help sufferers and give peace of mind to caregivers of Alzheimer’s are welcome. The Halifax Regional Police force is launching a trial program that they believe will help reduce the incidents of loved ones going missing and individuals in the program are patients already at risk of wandering. They will be fitted with a GPS tracking bracelet that looks like a watch and will allow police to quickly locate a person that has wandered away. During the trial, the Police force will attempt to address potential issues like the wearer who may remove their bracelet, battery life and false alarms, but they are optimistic that the program will save money and possibly lives.
The province of Ontario is also on board with initiatives that will help Alzheimer’s patients and one such program is their Silver Advisory modeled after the Amber Alert system. Information about a missing senior will be transmitted via a wrist worn RF transmitter to the local police station and officials may then track the individual to within a two-kilometer radius.
Innovative products for dementia patients
Comfort Zone is a GPS based system designed with Alzheimer’s patients in mind. The system allows flexibility, for example the tracking device may be mounted in the car for individuals in early stages of the disease and are still driving and there’s the wrist-worn device for those that are not.
The Comfort Zone basics are the device, the monthly plan and Internet access. Safe zones are set up for daytime and nighttime plus zones may be added to include vacation areas. If the wearer moves beyond the designated zones a text or email is sent to the caregiver. In setting up Comfort Zone, you’ll have the flexibility to decide what type of alerts to receive, such as texts or email, and who receives them.
Monitoring may be from the workplace or from across the country and because Comfort Zone comes with enrollment in Medic Alert and the Alzheimer’s Association, a team of professionals is available to assist in the event of an emergency. For more information on the website at alz.org/comfortzone.
An assistive technology now on the market is the GPS Smartshoe. The shoe is embedded with GPS inside the sole of the shoe so that it cannot be easily removed. Green and red zones are set up in the computer program and/or smartphone application and when the wearer enters a red zone, an alert would be sent to the caregiver. From the computer or smartphone app, the caregiver is able to locate the wearer of the Smartshoe to within 37 feet. The GPS Smartshoe is available online at gtxcorp.com and gpsshoe.com.
GPS Technology is being used in more new and important ways than ever before and is providing safety and peace of mind to dementia patients and to their loved ones and caregivers.
By Alice Lucette
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