Our 'Ask an Expert' column discusses the use of tracking devices to keep someone safe.

Q: 'I worry when I don't know where my husband has walked off to. His dementia is advanced and I have power of attorney. What tracking devices could help?'

Our expert says:

Devices that use GPS to locate a person may be useful. They could help your husband to continue walking about the neighbourhood while still being as safe as possible.

There are a number of practicalities to think about, and it's important to make sure that all decisions are made with his best interests in mind.

Safer walking

Most GPS devices are worn either on the wrist, like a watch, or around the neck on a lanyard, and they send various kinds of alerts. As long as your husband is in an area with a mobile signal, alerts could be sent to you and other specified people, or to a monitoring centre.

Devices usually have a panic or emergency button that your husband could press if he needs help. Often, they can also be set up so that you or another specified person can find out where he is any time you want to check.

Some devices would send an alert if they detect that your husband has had a fall. Geo-fencing is also offered by many - this means an alert would be sent if your husband goes outside a 'safe zone' that you have defined.

You may be able to use some or all of these functions to set up a system of alerts that work for your husband and you.

Things to consider

Even with power of attorney, you still need to ensure that any decision about using a GPS device is in your husband's best interests. These devices are meant to help someone remain independent for as long as possible, and not to simply 'tag' them for other people's convenience.

How could a device or function help your husband to walk about more safely? For example, would he be able to make a decision about using an emergency button?

Would he be happy and comfortable with wearing a particular device? Something worn on the wrist might work better if he's used to wearing a watch. If not, then other options might be preferable.

How would you keep a device's battery charged? Most cannot be charged while being worn, so charging needs to be planned. The battery may drain more quickly if someone goes out more, or if the mobile signal isn't strong.

Mobile signals can vary a lot between networks. Using a roaming sim card means the device can connect to whichever network has the strongest signal instead of relying on one.

Next steps

Dementia together magazine: Feb/March 18

Dementia together magazine is for everyone in the dementia movement and anyone affected by the condition.
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4 comments

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This really isn't a very helpful article. Other things to think through... Is it just proximity to a family member you live with that want to measure (eg look at proximity button for £34.99 which alerts your phone when the family member goes more than a certain distance) or do you need to figure out where they are from a distance (you don't live with them), charging time (most must be charged every 24 hours), monthly fees (the mindme costing around £90 including delivery but nearly £15/month is good, but clearly they make their dosh from the subscription required), the technology in use (you want GPS plus a SIM; GPS alone no good in urban settings; SIM alone no good in coverage black holes), size and weight (how can you attach it to the person in a way that does not bother them?), whether the tracker can do geofencing (alert you when the person leaves a specified area). Come on, you well-funded charity you, update this article please. There is quite a good Guardian article here: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/askjack/2017/jan/26/what-is-the-… - and my other tip is read the reviews from relatives to find what might work for you...

Having been through this process once with my dad (who did not want to be tracked), and about to go through it again with my mum, I totally agree with you Imogen. There's lots to consider, and the people you are caring for have opinions of their own, even if their judgement is impaired.

I just want a device that would accurately pin point my husbands position on my mobile Samsung phone if I loose him. I doubt he would learn what a panic button should be used for. He always has a house key and his wallet when he is out and about so attaching to either would be acceptable. What is the best most reliable devise?Yepson has been recommended but has some damning reviews.

Hello Ann. I am in the exact same situation with my wife who has advanced Alzheimer's and decided to go walkabout last Monday. Thank fully the police found her after 1 hour. Have you decided which tracker to buy. It is a bit of a minefield when trying to choose. Techsilver and Stray Star both seem good products but do more than required. Any advice?
John

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