Study Recommends GPS Tracking for Dementia Patients

29 May 2018

Multiple studies, including a new study conducted in the UK, have shown the advantages of utilizing GPS devices on patients with failing memories, speech difficulties or other conditions. This newest UK trial was conducted in Southampton, and the project was funded in part by the Alzheimer’s Society.

The study gathered information from individuals suffering from dementia, family members, police departments, charities and other researchers in an attempt to understand how GPS technology can help offer solutions for common issues these groups experience.

Researchers noted the alarming fact that around 25,000 dementia patients will wander off from their caretakers and get lost on a repeated basis. When individuals get lost repeatedly, it greatly increases the chances that they will be admitted to a long-term care facility to keep them safe. Statistics cited in the report mention that half of these patients who went missing for more than 24 hours were either seriously injured or dead when found.

The results of the study proved that dementia patients equipped with location devices provide the opportunity for greater independence, more freedom and a higher level of safety and reassurance for caretakers. The study trial in Southampton was rolled out on a larger scale due to the success of the program.

Dave Brown, a Detective Chief Inspector, stated that the GPS trackers caused a noticeable 65 percent decrease in the number of dementia patients being reported missing to his police department. He furthers that these devices are ultimately a personal decision, but they are highly recommended by his department.

Researchers highlight the importance of creating a habitual pattern of wearing GPS trackers. When wearing the GPS tracking device becomes a habit, individuals are less likely to wander off without the device, and their lives could be saved as a result.

Experts suggest introducing GPS tracking devices during the very early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Introducing these trackers while the patient can still comprehend the benefits will improve the likelihood that the patient will wear it. Discussing the GPS trackers early on will allow the individual to give informant consent to being tracked.

Southampton researchers hope their report will raise global awareness about the technology’s potential to mitigate risks, increase safety and save lives.


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