GPS devices

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/Mar 18

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My husband is 83 years old but physically quite fit for his age but now has Alzheimer’s dementure. He has always been a keen cyclist and will happily take himself off for a 25-30 mile bike ride, but he is increasingly unsure of directions home and his verbal skills are often confused. He has a simple mobile phone to telephone home but cannot use an i-phone, and he cannot always reply on his phone when contacted. I would like a tracking device which would cover a radius of about 30miles, and can be worn like a watch. What would you recommend?
We have both the Apple tracker and a Android tracker. We have 2 different ones, as some family members have iPhone, and some have android. As a family, these are a God send, and we hidden them inside our Mum's coat, and attached to her keyring, shopping bag. They really have come in handy. The really do give peace of mind if your love one goes wondering
This sounds amazing, could you tell me more about the devise and where I obtain them please. Thank you
Hi Lisa. The Apple trackers where purchased from a Apple store (pack of 2) and the Paj android tracker, we found on Amazon. Hope that helps :)
Hi have you used the air tag to track your mum as people are saying not sure if it will track distances . My mum got lost today and I had to drive round the streets today find her . I was wondering if you could confirm that this works . Thank you
I purchased the 'waterproof long life battery' tracker from Techsilver for my father and it's been invaluable!! We only have to charge it about once a week, which is much better than the one we bought before, and my husband and I can both track him from our smartphones. It has given us tremenndous peace of mind.
Hi I'm looking for a good GPS tracker ,could you reccomend one please .
This work with bluetooth? I need something that works with GPS (e.g. a watch) without a subscription as my dad lives abroad? Any ideas? Thanks

Hi/ Dear community.

Looking for advice. Looking for simple watch based GPS device to track movements of a loved one. Long life battery so that do not recharge, also functionality to alert of removal and heart/ general movement updates.

Thank you inadvance.

Can anyone recommend a device that will track my MIL when she wanders off please, and something that would raise an alarm if she falls

I've given my dad an iphone and i can locate him live GPS tracking, issue i face are we forget to put it in his pocket, kids take the phone, the worry that he might hand it over to some one.

My husband had an Iphone which I used to be able to make sure that he didn’t get lost when out walking the dog. He recently lost his IPhone whilst we were on holiday. Now I am thinking of getting something to put on his key ring. He attaches his keys to a trouser loop before he leaves the house. xx
We have been using life360 for sometime but my husband doesn't always take his or turns it off, so we need something else now for him to carry and connect to my android phone. Any suggestions please.

I’m beginning to feel that nothing is fool proof - with all these devices there is an element of using your memory involved ie to take something with you, to push a button if you need help, to keep device charged. My dad has a mobile phone that he always charged or carried with him but now he forgets to do both, he already wears two watches which he won’t take off so don’t think that would be an option and again unless you are with him before he leaves home you can’t be sure he’d put it on. My mum also has early onset Alzheimer’s and terrible short term memory so can’t be relied on to remind dad to wear something or take something. I absolutely do not mind paying for something that will work but I’m not sure there is anything available that really does! Any help or suggestions would be great - I just want dad to be as independent as possible but ensure he’s safe

We have a stray star tracker and it is excellent but means mum always has to be 'rescued' and feels bad. I wonder if there is a simple device with one button which can direct you home? We can talk to her via the tracker and monitor where she is. Note: we do know she would still be vulnerable and we would probably hide round a corner :) but it's just to enable her to go for a walk independently.

We, as a family, are in same position with trying to find a tracker for out Mum, with Alzheimers & Dementia. We've decided to go with the Air Tag (pack of 4), one off payment, no subscription, some family members have iPhones, but others have android, so we are also getting the Tile tracker, which can also connect to iPhones. Definitely worth getting 2 different ones, just incase one fails.

Hiya l have phoned Apple today for advice on using the air tag to track my dad. I was told that they could not confirm that these would be suitable for tracking a person and could not confirm what kind of distance they could go from home before they could not be tracked. The lady said they are intended for luggage and keys etc not with people in mind. So l am dubious about attempting to use this for my dad. His walks are dependant on his mood of the day. Sometimes it is only a mile or so sometimes several. If you have heard any different l am keen to know. Xx Bless you we share your pain and concerns.. 😘

Hi Emma,

It sounds like you might benefit from joining our online community, Talking Point, where people affected by dementia can share their insights and experiences. You can browse the conversations within the community or sign up for free here:

If you are based in the UK, we also recommend speaking with one of our dementia advisers to discuss this further. They will be best placed to provide you with dementia information and support relevant to you. Please call our Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456. More information on opening times:

If you're based in the US, please contact the Alzheimer's Association helpline:

Or if you're based in Canada, please contact the Alzheimer's Society of Canada helpline:

We hope this helps for now.

Alzheimer's Society website team

We tried the Apple air tag and were disappointed. We attached it to my mother’s keys , and as long as she remembered to take her keys with her it worked quite well initially. However, the location tracker relies on other Apple devices being nearby. This is fine in a built up area, but anywhere off the beaten track is useless. Also, after a couple of months it stopped working completely.
How useful have you found the AirTags and Tile trackers please? Mum went missing for a few hours today and we’re trying to find something small enough to attach to her neck (fall) pendant. I live over 150 miles from her so can’t go running every time something goes wrong or she goes out. She doesn’t have a mobile phone and would lose it if she did have it. I would love to hear how the trackers have worked for you.
Hi Gwyneth, I've put a general comment in below, bit, like you, I live miles away from my Mother, thought other family member are local. I would definitely recommend encourage you to get a tracker. As some family members have iPhone, some have Androids, we have got both trackers. We've hidden them in her coat, put on her keys, and attached to her bag she always uses. They have been a God send, and given us, as a family, peace of mind. Especially having 2 different trackers, should 1 fail, we can track via the other one. Hope this helps:)
Hi Veronica, Thank you for your reply. Please can you tell me what sort of trackers you have used. Gwynneth
Hi Gwyneth It's the Apple Air tags (2 pack), and the Android Paj tracker. Hope that helps x
We’ve attached an Apple air tag to Mum’s mobility scooter but it only works if it’s near a mobile signal so not 100% accurate. dad has the weenect tracker which is good .i put it on his key ring but he sometimes turns it of accidently is there another tracker i can buy that is hard to turn of ..x

I can recommend the Stray Star GPS tracker too.
I've used it for my Dad and it's been amazing.
One off fee to buy it, then no monthly subsription - just the cost of topping up the cheap giff gaff sim card as you would a mobile phone. It uses data when you either have a conversation on it like a phone or track using the app on your phone or website on a computer or laptop.

You can set it to alert you if it goes out of a certain zone you set.

I've used it a couple of times when I've talked to Dad through it and guided him home when he's got lost.

It looks like a car keyfob (little larger) so we put it on his house keys. I also told him about the SOS button in the middle so he can push it anytime to speak to me if he needs help and he seemed to like this idea.
It's also given him a little bit of independance as I can keep an eye on where he's going so if he leaves the house it's not the end of the world, he's never lost as long as he has his keys on him.

Only down side is you have to charge it up on it's cradle every couple of days but you can check the battery life anytime through the app.

My husband has dementia . He does not wear a watch, and does not have a mobile phone. He does have a sunflower lanyard, could I attach it to that ? I have lasting power of attorney .

All we are looking for is a basic watch with a locator app for my mum who wouldn’t wear something she didn’t recognise , or remember her keys, phone or bag ,
We can’t find anything pretty for her without a monthly fee. I thought in this day and age this would be easy

SOS watch supplied [medpage] via our council no cost me , a SIM card by “1penny service” £30 which I pay for pa I think or can do methyl. . works well can track on my ph. But have to charge every 2-3 days. Happy to supply more info if not purchased . apple also do 1 but only a choice of 3 service prov i think.£200 PLUS TO BUY,You are correct not many option, we dont need much tech only tracking. Buddi is not bad could be supplied by local council? They pick up tab ,good tracking can go on belt,landward.

My Husband has an Navigil S1 tracker watch, the battery after two years is fading and needs to be charged twice sometimes three times a day.
Does anyone know of a local authorized service partner to replace the battery, in Northamptonshire area.

Where did you purchase it from - I can't find a buy option?

I fully agree with the last comment. I've bought two of the tech silver type. No problem getting Hubbie to take it as its on his key ring. I was told i could track his progress on my iPhone but can't. Got a roving sim card in it . No help seems to be available to set it up.
or resolve problems. Mary

I have just purchased a Straystar GPS tracker for my husband.
I chose this over Life360, as he does not use a smart phone but manages his ordinary mobile very well.
He does not really need the tracker just get but I’m very pleased to have got it in advance.
There is a one off payment.
It is amazing. Very easy to use and I keep finding new things it does!
An extra plus is the excellent support if you have any queries.

I have Alzheimer's Disease, and I'm looking for a way of informing my children and partner where I am.

I've had a mobile phone for many years, so I want an app that will work on my Android mobile, only give my position when an authorised mobile calls it, and be economical on power. (i.e. only send location info if called by specified mobiles.)

So far nobody has named such an app, but there surely must be one for the UK...!

Life360 app works across both Android & iPhone and gets good reviews, but of course relies on the person carrying their phone everywhere.

If you are able I recommend life 360 app. We’ve just downloaded it to my mums phone as my step dad has vascular dementia, she lives that she can see if we are at work or at home, there is an sos button so she can press that and we’ll all come running. My step dad is becoming a little violent so it has given her peace of mind and she now says she doesn’t feel alone. My four adult children have added her to their circles ( we have different circles on there, where you can have specific groups of people ) it’s great . We are now looking a a keyring tracker for my step dad as he throws tantrums and walks out, just so we know where he is if he’s fine a little too long. He doesn’t carry his phone, hates things round his neck and won’t wear a watch but always takes his keys.