April 24, 2012
Joann had dozed off for what seemed like just a few minutes when suddenly she jerked awake. Immediately she felt something was wrong. Her mother, Betty, was not asleep in the recliner like she was when Joann let her own eyes close. Joann checked the bedroom, the bathroom and the kitchen as she called out "Mom? Mom!" before she noticed the front door was unlocked. Racing outside, Joann did a lap of the house in a panic and sprinted down the driveway calling out her mom's name again and again. Twenty frantic minutes later, Joann's cell phone rang. It was a neighbor up the street wondering if Betty should be out by herself with her Alzheimer's.
Fortunately Joann's neighbor saved Betty from a potentially dangerous situation, but not all stories of Alzheimer's wanderers end well. According to memory care expert David Troxel, over 60 percent of individuals with Alzheimer's wander, and it's not uncommon for them to get lost. As a senior care professional, you've likely heard the stories and the family caregivers' desperate pleas for help.
It's not always easy for family caregivers to keep track of their loved ones who may be prone to frequent wandering. In addition to methods for managing the wandering behavior, with the help of innovated GPS gadgets designed specifically for Alzheimer's wanderers, they might be able to rest a little easier.
- i-tag-along GPS tracking device is about the size and shape of a nine-volt battery that the individual with Alzheimer's keeps in his or her pocket. Family caregivers can monitor their loved one's location from the Internet at any time, establish a geofence (if the person wanders outside of a designated perimeter, the device will send a notification via email, text or voice), or receive notification with location information when their loved one activates the device's SOS button.
- Tell My Geo is an Android app that allows caregivers to schedule regular location updates. Individuals with Alzheimer's can also easily alert their caregivers using the app's large help buttons should they become disoriented or in need of assistance. The app also allows caregivers to store critical medical information and send it directly to health care providers in the event of an emergency. Tell My Geo requires two Android smartphones to administer and use—one for caregivers to track their loved one's location and one for the individual with Alzheimer's to reveal his or her location.
- GPS Smart Shoe is an innovative new product that tracks the location of Alzheimer's wanderers from the item they're most likely to have with them—their shoes. The GPS device, housed inconspicuously in the soul of the shoe, can provide immediate feedback to caregivers as to the wanderer's location should he or she become lost. It does not rely on the individual with Alzheimer's to keep track of it or press a button to communicate location information. The GPS Smart Shoe also has a barrier breach warning system that sends a text to a caregiver if the individual wanders outside of the designated area.
- S-911 Bracelet ST LocatorTM is a lockable wristwatch designed for individuals with Alzheimer's to wear that can send location alerts, detect sudden movements like a fall or impact, send speed limit alerts, and open a two-way connection between the wanderer and the caregiver when the wanderer activates the SOS button. Devices similar to the bracelet locator are also available to place on the wanderer's belt or car.
While these gadgets may help reduce caregiver panic and facilitate a quicker reunion with a lost loved one, remind family members that it's also important to maintain a safe environment at home and learn to reduce wandering triggers. Read "How Do I Manage Mom's Wandering?" for more tips.
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