There has been a lot of great press recently about the arrival of the Aetrex GPS shoes and how they allow families to track and find an elder with dementia who wanders away. This certainly is good news for many families who worry about this scary event happening to them. I would like to caution those families however, that a GPS tracking signal is not foolproof since the signals can be blocked by weather or the terrain. Also, I could not determine from their website whether or not the device is waterproof and that is also an important consideration since elders with dementia are often not hesitant about entering drainage ditches or bodies of water. What it comes down to is that if you live in an area where the likelihood of your loved one wandering into a body of water, or heavy woods, hills and valleys, etc. is high, then you may not want to rely on GPS technology for safety. Another point is that when the dementia progresses, the elder can often still wander and will not think to stop and put shoes on if they’re going outside. If your loved one is still quite high functioning and will always think to put shoes on before exiting the house, then they will have some protection with the GPS shoes.
There are other options, and I believe the best, most reliable option is with the Project Lifesaver device. They have partnered with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, and this devise requires the person to wear a small transmitter on either the wrist or ankle. The equipment to track the elders must be purchased for the local police department (through fundraisers, etc.) and they see that batteries are changed regularly. The average find time with this devise is 30 minutes.
Any type of monitoring is certainly better than nothing, but please don’t rely solely on any technology to keep your loved one safe. Door locks or alarms, fencing around the home, and regular supervised exercise will all help reduce the chances of wandering away from home. Knowing the elder can become more confused and begin to wander at any time, including on shopping trips, means you must take steps to always keep them in sight when you’re out and about.