Tracking systems: What devices exist to keep track of a family member who wanders?

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What devices exist to keep track of a family member who wanders?

Question

I would like to find out about tracking systems for my husband who has dementia.

Our answer

Wandering is a common behaviour associated with dementia, and with the right tool is can actually be beneficial. Wandering is a low impact form of exercise and can be a healthy outlet for managing the complex emotions that can come with dementia. However, the concern with wandering is that a dangerous situation could occur. There are several products available that aim to provide caregivers with peace of mind by tracking the individual. Below, we have organized a few of these options based on how they work.

Global Positioning System (GPS)

These devices are often associated with monthly fees since they rely on cell service for accuracy and to send information to the person doing the tracking. The Alzheimer’s Store does offer these types of devices in their US store.

  • Mini GPS Tracker by Lyumo (available from walmart.ca) is a GPS locator with a built-in help button. The device requires a SIM card with a data plan in order to send and receive signals. The device costs about $50 (Cdn) plus additional shipping fees.
  • TK-1000 Mini Tracking Device by TK Star (available from walmart.ca) is a mini, waterproof GPS locator. This device allows for geofencing, where you can set up a virtual fence and then be alerted when the device goes past beyond it. The device costs $65 (Cdn) plus additional shipping fees.
  • Prime Mobile by Safetracks is a mobile device that offers both the functionality of a personal response system and a GPS tracker. With an online login, a caregiver can track the device's location on a map. There is a cost for the device and an activation fee. The subscription service is $50 (Cdn) a month.

Bluetooth

These devices connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone and then rely on the cell service from that smartphone to provide location details.

  • Tile Mate by Tile Inc. (available from amazon.ca) is a keychain-sized Bluetooth locator. A connected smartphone can be used to ring the device – and visa versa. The smartphone app will show where the Tile Mate was when it last had Bluetooth connection. The Bluetooth range is about 60 meters. This product costs $30 (Cdn) plus additional shipping fees.
  • Innway Card by Innway (available from amazon.ca) is a credit card-sized Bluetooth locator. The card and the connected smartphone can ring one another, and the app shows the location where the card was when it was last connected to Bluetooth. This product costs $50 (Cdn) plus additional shipping fees.

Smartphones are another option. The most common newer ones already have GPS functionality and if the phone is being used by the person with dementia they might already have a data plan. The process is unique to the smartphone, but generally, one user can authorize another user to keep track of the location of that smartphone.

In a previous Ability411 question we looked into GPS tracking devices that could fit into a hat to track a loved one who wanders.

You might also be interested in learning more about some other resources to create a safe environment for wandering.

It is important that the ethical impacts of using GPS to track someone should be taken into consideration. If possible, the decision to be tracked should be made in collaboration with the individual, and consent should be obtained (from them or their substitute decision-maker).

For more information on this issue, you may want to read this article from the National Institutes of Health in the U.S.

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