One of the most frustrating issues many family members have to contend with is if their elderly parent or senior loved one wanders due to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or other illness causing memory loss. Your loved one can even get lost in familiar places that they have frequented often.
When a senior with dementia wanders, it can be very dangerous. This can take a serious emotional toll on loved ones, especially family caregivers. Watching over a person every moment of every day is impossible.Completecare.ca
This can end up resulting in a dangerous situation. So, to give family members and caregivers peace of mind, consider using some of the tools we mention in this article. In the event of an emergency, you can use these devices to find your loved one.
There are fortunately a number of GPS trackers and other wander management location devices available that can help alleviate some of this stress. These products can provide caregivers with peace of mind, often through a smartphone app on their cell phone.
The basic idea with many of these products is to create a series of safe zones which is like creating a geo-fence. If the dementia patient wearing the device wanders out of one of these safe zones, the caregiver is alerted.
This can be done with a mobile app, text message, email or even a phone call. Some devices will also send an alert to a designated caregiver if the person falls or if they have been inactive for a period of time.
There are many products on the market, each with different features. It’s important to find one that meets the needs of both the caregiver and the person with dementia.
Factors To Consider When Choosing A Wearable Device:
- Ease of use: The product should be easy for both the caregiver and the person with dementia to use.
- Battery life: Choose a device with a long battery life so it doesn’t need to be charged frequently.
- Size and weight: Consider how the device will be worn. It should be comfortable and not too bulky.
- Water resistance: If the person with dementia likes to swim or take baths, choose a water-resistant device.
- GPS tracking: GPS tracking is a helpful feature if the person with dementia tends to wander.
So, here are some products that may help you and your senior loved one!
GPS Tracking Devices
One of the newest wearable tools for helping to keep a dementia patient safe from wandering are tech tools that use GPS to track the location of the wearer. There are a number of these devices on the market, each with its own features and benefits.
What is a GPS tracking device?
A GPS tracking device is a small, hand-held device (or wearable) that uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) to pinpoint a person’s exact location. The devices are often used by law enforcement to track criminals or missing persons.
In recent years, GPS tracking devices have become smaller, more accurate and more affordable, making them a popular choice for older adults with dementia who wander.
How do GPS tracking devices work?
GPS technology works by using a network of satellites to pinpoint a person’s location. The device then uses this information to provide the person’s exact coordinates, which can be used to locate them if they become lost.
Family members and/or caregivers can normally use an app on their smartphone to get the location of their loved one.
These days – there are multiple different types of wearable devices that you could use that provide GPS tracking. Look through these options for the best choice for your needs.
Invisawear Smart Jewelry – these days, wearable GPS devices don’t have to look clunky. This beautiful necklace is a piece of jewelry that is also a safety device! It’s a good way to contact friends, family, emergency responders as well.
GPS enabled watches – from Apple (this particular one also has an anti fall alarm which is pretty cool!). Another cool watch to consider is The Theora Connect™.
Dynotag medical id pendants – if your loved one is in the early stages of dementia and can wear this without removing it or losing it, it may prove helpful.
The GPS SmartSole – These are patented insoles with a built in GPS tracker inside. They fit into most shoes easily and feel like regular insoles. Track your loved one’s location via your desktop web browser, tablet or smartphone. You can also set it up to send text and email alerts if your parent leaves their designated area (aka safe zone).
These are a great option for older adults with severe cognitive impairment because they are less likely to remove them.
If you’re worried about your loved one with dementia wandering, a GPS locator can give you some peace of mind.
Wandering Response Service
The Alzheimer’s Association has put together a program along with the MedicAlert® Foundation which works to help you to find your missing loved one if they have successfully left their or your home.
You can read about the Wandering Response Service here for more information.
A low tech / low cost solution is to use Door Guards or Stop Signs on a door. These are essentially large signs placed ON the door itself or strapped across the door frame. The reason that these may work is because some elderly with cognitive issues will halt at the STOP sign that is on these products.
This stop sign is a familiar looking object that they can identify with and know to “not enter”.
But of course, everyone is different so let’s look at some other products that you may find works for you.
Keyless door locks are one way to help to keep your loved ones safer and hopefully help to keep them from wandering away.
There are multiple options available as you can see by clicking here – and below is a video that goes over the installation of one of these types of locks.
Prime-Line has a door knob lockout device product that a friend of mine has used since 2014 and his report is that “It works great!”.
The Smart Caregiver mat can alert you when someone gets off the bed.
The Smart Caregiver floor mat can alert you when someone steps on it – so you would place this in an appropriate place in your home.
You may find that you will have to use one or more of these items to give your senior loved one the best possible protection but again, no matter what you choose – I would recommend to use any of the GPS wearable devices because at the end of the day – nothing is 100% full proof.
Safe Return Program
So, this is not something to help “prevent” wandering but it can be extremely useful if someone with dementia were to wander away.
The Dementia Wanderers Safe Return Program helps caregivers of individuals with dementia who have a tendency to wander and become lost. The participant is given several forms of identification. A lapel pin, a bracelet, necklace, key chain.
When they are found by someone, they can then contact the number on these forms of ID to get that senior back home to their safe environment.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many individuals with dementia develop wandering behavior?
Wandering is a fairly common behavior found in patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It occurs in up to 60 percent of care recipients with dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Are medical alert systems good for seniors with dementia?
It really depends on the stage of dementia that the person is in. Anyone in the later stages of dementia may not be able to remember to use a medical alert device so it won’t do them any good. But, if they are wearing a device that can automatically detect an issue such as ones that have fall detection capabilities (like the Apple watch), then that may be very useful.