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

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

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Hi..my 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

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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.

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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 .
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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

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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.

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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.

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

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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

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Hello
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.

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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...!

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

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Yes, absolutely agree there's more to it, especially when the person lives alone and a carer will have to charge the device, so a long battery life is important. I am just starting to look at pet trackers, eg tractive, as I'm not sure my brother would be able to use the features on more sophisticated devices and we just want to see where he is when he's not home. Has anyone tried these?

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Yes a year to late but negative side is short battery life and needs be charged about 3 hours off and on charge then back on also check regular it is still powered up so alerts will be misleading some times once I'd enough sorry but I took advice from the people that deal with dementia and yes waisted money on something you need to remember also if switched on after power gone

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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.

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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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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.

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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...

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Brilliant comment. Very helpful, informative and relevant to my current situation with my mum.

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Yes, just watched a ‘gone missing’ tv programme where in both instances a tracker (of some sort) would have enabled the person with altzeimer’s to be found without the huge resources of police resources, including helicopter that were necessary.
Don’t understand why this charity hasn’t moved with the times . . .

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