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Alzheimer's & Dementia
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Outdoors - Wandering

Motion Sensors
What You Need to Know & Expert Reviews


If the person you care for has started to leave home alone or is trying to negotiate the stairs unassisted when it’s no longer safe to do so, or if they should be getting help getting out of bed or a chair, a motion sensor may be helpful for monitoring their activity.

Trade Name: Passive Infrared Sensor (PIR)

How They Work. The motion sensor, as the name implies, senses motion wherever it’s placed and then sends a signal to a local or, more often, a remote receiver unit, letting you know the person is approaching an outside door, is leaving the bedroom, etc. See Animation.

Parts Include


Motion Sensor


Remote Caregiver Receiver
  • Motion sensor, placed in an area you want to monitor. Try several spots to find optimal location for your situation. For example:
    • Near a doorway or in a hallway to send an alert if the person is leaving the room.
    • Under the bed to alert you when a person gets out of bed.
    • Sensors often work best placed at a right angle to the path the person is moving in - when someone is walking across the sensor beam rather than toward it.

  • One of the following (or both on occasion)
    • Remote receiver unit - sometimes called the caregiver receiver or the remote alert
    • Local voice alert unit (with caregiver voice) instead of a remote alert. (It can be set up with a remote receiver, but requires the purchase of an extra unit.)
Please Note. Motion detectors generally need about 30 to 60 seconds to warm up after turning on or after changing the settings (we thought ours was broken).

4 Main Differences Among Motion Sensors
  1. Volume control and type of alert
    • Chime
    • Alarm
    • Vibration
    • Caregiver voice
  2. Transmission range from the sensor to your receiver (75 to 150 feet)
  3. How the alert is turned off (automatically or manually)
  4. Plug-in or portable (battery-operated) caregiver receiver
BENEFITS
  • May allow you to get to person’s side to offer assistance.
  • No wires to trip over or uncomfortable pads to sit or lay on.
  • You can monitor a wide area (whole room) or narrow area (bedside only), depending on sensor placement (horizontal or vertical) and choice of sensor (each product we tested/reviewed had a different coverage area).
DRAWBACKS
  • Every time someone walks by the sensor, an alert will go off. For example, if you’re monitoring a person getting up from bed, the alert will also sound when the person gets back into bed.
  • You’ll need to experiment with the right placement of the sensor so the sensor is picking up the person’s movements when you want it to, and this can be tricky. For example, if you DO NOT want the person to
    • Get up from the bed unassisted, you need to make sure the sensor is picking up the person’s movements as they sit up, not when they stand up.
    • Go out the front door unassisted, you need to make sure the sensor is picking up the person’s movements as they go towards the door, not when they’re just passing by the door going to another room (like the kitchen) or there will be too many false alerts.
  • Depending on your situation and/or the type of sensor you buy, you may need to turn the motion sensor on or off several times a day and it’s easy to forget to reset it. You can limit the detection area with black electrical tape covering part of the sensor, but this will only work in limited situations.
  • Pets can set off the sensors, but you can try placing the sensor higher to change the area covered by the motion detector and to see if it picks up the movements of the person you care for rather than your pets.
  • Changing the settings can be difficult because the setting and control knobs are very small - could be problematic for persons with arthritis or low vision. (You may need to get out a magnifier!)
  • Batteries do not last long, depending on use.
GENERAL CAUTIONS
  • These systems are not fail-proof and may not always work, so use multiple strategies when trying to prevent falls or wandering. See our section on Wandering and on Falls for more ideas.
  • Although the alert sound may seem loud enough to wake you from sleep - test to make sure that it can wake you from a deep slumber (if that’s what you want).
  • Maximum motion sensor detection areas vary, depending on room layouts, obstructions (e.g., columns, walls), the position of the sensor, and other environmental influences, so you need to test before use.
  • Persons with dementia may learn to duck under the sensor, detach it from where it is mounted, or disable the device. If the person notices and resists having a motion sensor mounted in their home, some caregivers tactfully say that the unit is a smoke alarm. Each caregiver has to decide for themselves whether this is justifiable or not.

Below you’ll find several motion sensors that we’ve tested along with specific Pros and Cons for each product.


Expert Review - Motion Sensor with Battery-Operated Remote Caregiver Alert



Motion Sensor




Caregiver Receiver Alert


MANUFACTURER
Safeguard Marketing

COST
$34 - $62 (depending on where you purchase it).

Batteries: Each unit requires a 9V battery (not included).

VENDORS
Colonial Medical Assistive Devices

Use an online Search Engine
Check stores in your area



DISCLAIMER
The listing of these products is for informational purposes and individuals must use their own caution and judgment when using these resources. Functional levels and changes in judgment and reasoning are highly variable in people with dementia. Interventions must be individualized and continually assessed because those that are effective for some individuals may only work briefly and may not work at all for others.

DESCRIPTION
This device has two units: a motion sensor (detector) and a portable receiver (alert) for the caregiver. Sensor can be placed on a table, under a bed or on a wall (bracket/screws included or use your own double-sided mounting tape).

The manufacturer claims
  • 16-foot range for detection of motion
  • Detecting angle
    • 6° - Vertical
    • 60° - Horizontal
  • Can send a signal to the caregiver receiver up to 100 feet away, through walls

PROS - Product Specific
Choice of alert locations. The sensor can detect motion and sound an alert at the site of the motion detector OR send the alert to the caregiver’s portable receiver. (We however recommend that whenever possible, you sound only a remote alert)

Alert has a pleasant chime sound.

Caregiver receiver is portable; you can take it with you throughout the home as long as you stay within the manufacturer’s 100-foot operating range; it has a belt clip.

System automatically resets itself after each motion detection.

CONS - Product Specific
Chime alert automatically turns off after approximately 4 seconds if the person leaves the detection area - which may not be long enough for nighttime use, depending on how soundly you sleep.

Caregiver receiver has high and low volume switch, but there is little difference in volume. Even low volume may be too loud; this however, could be a safety feature, increasing the chances of hearing the alert.

CAUTION
See General Cautions


Motion Sensor with Battery-Operated Remote Caregiver Alert



Motion Sensor




Caregiver Receiver Alert

Genius Wireless Wander Alert


MANUFACTURER
Huge Automations Co.

COST
$58 - $72 (depending on where you purchase it) Includes double-sided mounting tape.

Batteries: 3 AA batteries for the receiver and a 9V battery for the detector (not included)

VENDORS
Alimed

Alzheimer's Store (Click on "Wandering")

Colonial Medical

Use an online Search Engine
Check stores in your area

DISCLAIMER
The listing of these products is for informational purposes and individuals must use their own caution and judgment when using these resources. Functional levels and changes in judgment and reasoning are highly variable in people with dementia. Interventions must be individualized and continually assessed because those that are effective for some individuals may only work briefly and may not work at all for others.

DESCRIPTION
This device has two units: a motion sensor (detector) and a portable receiver (alert) for the caregiver.

The manufacturer claims
  • 15-foot range for detection of motion
  • Detecting Angle
    • 52.5° - Vertical
    • 90° - Horizontal
  • Can send a signal to the caregiver receiver up to 120 feet away, through walls

PROS - Product Specific
Caregiver alert has three different sound settings: pleasant melody, “ding dong” sound, and a (jarring) siren sound (not recommended).

Caregiver alert is portable, so you can take it with you throughout the home as long as you stay within the manufacturer’s 120-foot operating range; it has a belt clip.

When the motion detector battery is low, a continuous beep sounds.

CONS - Product Specific
To change the caregiver alert sound, you need to change the settings on both the sensor and the caregiver units. Settings on both units are oddly labeled “High” and “Low.” It’s a bit of trial and error to get the desired alert sound. For example, when the motion detector in set on “Low” and the caregiver alert is set on “High” you hear the melody alert sound.

It can be difficult at times to know if the setting is on “Off”, “High” or “Low” so you need to double check that you haven’t turned the units off by mistake. This happened during our testing: we thought the settings were on low, but, in fact, we had turned them off!

No volume adjustment - even the more pleasant sounding alerts may be too loud, depending on your situation.

There is no auto reset if you want to silence the alert before it turns off automatically. This isn’t an issue for the four second ding dong alert, but the chime sound) is around 30 seconds. The only way to silence it is by turning the caregiver receiver off. But then you have to remember to turn it back on again, which is easy to forget.


Wireless Motion Sensor with Local Plug-In Caregiver Voice Reminder



Voice Alert System 6






Voice Unit in Decorative Box


MANUFACTURER
Cross Point Industries

COST
$153 for one speaker unit and sensor
$ 96.00 additional speaker units
$70 additional sensors

Batteries: 9V battery (not included)
VENDORS
Cross Point Industries

Use an online Search Engine
Check stores in your area

DISCLAIMER
The listing of these products is for informational purposes and individuals must use their own caution and judgment when using these resources. Functional levels and changes in judgment and reasoning are highly variable in people with dementia. Interventions must be individualized and continually assessed because those that are effective for some individuals may only work briefly and may not work at all for others.

DESCRIPTION
Some individuals may respond to a verbal safety warning to prevent falls or wandering. This product has a wireless sensor and a separate plug in speaker unit which uses a recorded message, in your voice, to play a reminder when a person is detected within the range of the unit. This product can be used at the stairs or by a bed, a chair, or a door.

Typical voice reminders might be, “Dad, it’s Rick - wait for me, don’t go out the door” (or, “Don’t get up from the chair.”). I’ll be right there”. If used in a large home, multiple sensors and speakers would be needed. For example, a speaker unit in a bedroom would announce, “Dad’s at the front door” (or, “the back door,” depending on the sensor(s) location(s).

Originally designed as a home alarm system, this product is now being promoted as a voice monitoring system for people with dementia.

The manufacturer claims
  • 40 x 40 foot range for detection of motion when sensor is mounted at 7 feet-6inches above the floor
  • Downward detecting angle of 45°
  • Can send a signal to the caregiver receiver up to 300 feet, through walls

Special Note
When recording, be sure to enunciate so your words will be clearly heard on the speaker.

PROS - Product Specific
Messages are recorded by the caregiver, ensuring that the voice is familiar to the person with dementia.

Wide range of detection; sensor rotates and pivots and has multiple beam spread patterns

Excellent audio quality

Excellent volume adjustment on speaker unit, from low to very loud

Auto reset after each motion detection

Each message plays twice before stopping. Movement in the detection range will trigger the message to be played again.

The sensors (not the speaker units) are weather resistant and can be used outside. For example, you can be notified if the person enters a given area in the backyard.

One caregiver speaker unit can monitor up to six motion sensors.

CONS - Product Specific
If you aren’t nearby, you may not hear the local speaker unit, so you’ll need to get another speaker unit to use for a remote alarm. Or combine this product with another, like a door monitor with a remote alert.

Speaker unit is large and may not be accepted by the person. You may want to disguise it by placing it in a decorative box though which sound can be heard (as we did).

Only six seconds for each message (though we were able to say: “ Dad, wait for me, I’ll be right there, don’t go out the door”)

The person may become agitated
  • By the message telling them what to do, especially if the voice alert plays over and over again.
  • If they perceive the voice as disembodied. Identify yourself in the recording so as not to startle the person (e.g., “Hi Victor, it’s your wife, Tracey.”)
CAUTION
See General Cautions


Wireless Motion Sensor with Local Battery-Operated Caregiver Voice Reminder



“No Touch Talker”


MANUFACTURER
Attainment Co.
Item No. NTT-01

COST
$49

VENDORS
Attainment Co.
Item No. NTT-01

Use an online Search Engine
Check stores in your area

DISCLAIMER
The listing of these products is for informational purposes and individuals must use their own caution and judgment when using these resources. Functional levels and changes in judgment and reasoning are highly variable in people with dementia. Interventions must be individualized and continually assessed because those that are effective for some individuals may only work briefly and may not work at all for others.

DESCRIPTION
Some individuals respond to a verbal safety warning to prevent falls or wandering. This product has a motion sensor and a speaker unit which uses a recorded message, in your voice, to play a reminder when a person is detected within its range. This product can be used at the stairs or by a bed, a chair, or a door.

Typical voice reminders might be, “Dad, it’s Rick - wait for me, don’t go out the door (or “don’t get up from the chair.”) “I’ll be right there.” Note that this product provides a local announcement only - no remote alert.

Special Note: Although this product is marketed primarily as a “new tool that teaches an individual to move towards a target” and comes with a plastic cover to draw the person’s attention to it, you can also use it as described here (without the cover).

The manufacturer claims
10-foot range for detection of motion

Batteries: 4 AA batteries (not included)
You’ll also need double sided tape or a nail.

Special Note:
When recording, be sure to enunciate so your words will be clearly heard on the speaker.

PROS - Product Specific
Messages are recorded by the caregiver, ensuring that the voice is familiar to the person with dementia.

If the recorded message isn’t effective in your situation, there’s a local chime option (which sounds at the device only) to alert you when movement is detected. However, the person could become agitated by the chime alert.

The message will repeat if the person moves while in the motion detector range.

CONS - Product Specific
This product does not come with a remote caregiver receiver to alert you of unsafe activity in a remote location. If you might not hear the local alert, you’ll need to combine this product with another, like a door monitor with a remote alert.

Audio
  • You cannot adjust the volume
  • Sound quality is merely adequate
If the person is hearing impaired, they may not be able to hear or understand the words.

The person may become agitated
  • By the message telling them what to do, especially if the voice alert plays over and over again
  • If they perceive the voice as disembodied. Identify yourself in the recording so as not to startle the person (e.g., “Hi Victor, it’s your wife, Tracey.”)
CAUTION
See General Cautions

DISCLAIMER
The listing of these products is for informational purposes and individuals must use their own caution and judgment when using these resources. Functional levels and changes in judgment and reasoning are highly variable in people with dementia. Interventions must be individualized and continually assessed because those that are effective for some individuals may only work briefly and may not work at all for others.

Product Selection Criteria

Our goal is to teach you how to be a good consumer and to help you learn about specific products and unique product features that may enhance your safety and the safety and function of the person with dementia. The products shown in This Caring Home serve as examples only. Manufacturers continually change product specifications and the products represented may be different from those now on the market.

We realize this is not an all-inclusive list. Products featured in This Caring Home were chosen for one or more of the following reasons:
  • Affordability
  • Attractiveness
  • Availability
  • Color selection
  • Ease of use
  • Quality
  • Safety
We encourage you to discuss product selection with other caregivers and health care professionals.


How We Tested

"ThisCaringHome.org tested many products that are commonly recommended for best practices to identify the best use of these products and any potential problems in their use by caregivers and individuals with dementia. Each product included in an Expert Review was tested in a home environment, either an apartment or a single family home (or both), by at least two people. Rosemary Bakker, interior designer, gerontologist and dementia specialist, was one of the testers for every product. Whenever possible, we tested the product over time, sometimes days, weeks, or months, for:
  • Ease of use
  • Reliability
  • Potential safety issues
As a result of our testing, we're listing the pros and cons for using these products and including safety precautions for various products. These products were not tested by persons with dementia. We hope in the future to do case studies to learn more about what works and what doesn't work in a larger variety of caregiving situations and home environments."

Products listed on our website but not tested by ThisCaringHome.org are referred to as "Product Listings".



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