One of the worst things that comes with dementia is the constant fear for the person wandering off without caregivers knowledge. It can be deeply unsettling and exhausting to live on the edge all the time, not knowing if or when it might happen.
Most caregivers resort to locking the doors or relying on door alarms to notify them if the person in care goes outside. But none of these solutions are completely fool proof and for the peace of mind, it is always best to get couple of location devices to track your loved one as well, just in case.
What are GPS Personal Tracking Devices?
GPS stands for Global Positioning System so a GPS personal tracking device is a gadget that uses a transmitter to receive information about its location from the GPS satellite network. It then emits this signal back to the end user in real time. GPS personal tracking devices are used to track people, vehicles and other valuables. If you take care of someone with dementia, you can have them carry this portable device around in their backpack or purse, or attach it to their clothing or footwear.
Unlike the Bluetooth trackers used to find lost keys or a lost phone inside your home, a GPS personal tracker can locate items at street level as they have wider network coverage. On the other hand, Bluetooth trackers can only locate items within a small radius, making them less effective for searching people and objects in motion. Most GPS trackers use motion detection technology and they will send you an alert whenever someone or a vehicle is in motion.
These trackers have a panic button that should be pressed in case of an emergency. They use technologies such as geofencing and cellular networks to make location detection more accurate. GPS personal tracking devices also have the capability of sending location updates and alerts to the caregiver’s or relevant authority’s phone if needed. This way, in case a dementia patient wanders away you will be able to locate them easily.
What Can I Track with These Devices?
GPS personal tracking devices are meant to locate items or people that are either stationary or in motion. This means that you can locate both people (including children, teenagers, the elderly) as well as track objects such as vehicles, phones, laptops, and other valuables.
However, before installing and activating this device, you should understand the laws governing its use. You should never track someone if doing so will infringe their privacy unless the risk of not tracking them outweighs the privacy factor like is the case of people with mental disabilities, children traveling alone or patients with dementia.
Are Tracking Devices Legal?
It is perfectly legal to use tracking devices on your own property. It is also legal to track your children if they are under 18 years. When it comes to tracking the elderly, it is more of a ethical than legal issue.
In case you have the power of attorney you have the right and obligation to act in their best interests and if you decide that tracking them is just that, then you are OK. If you do not have the power of attorney however, you can not track them without their consent.
In either case it is always advisable to ask for the person’s permission and also explain what this device is and what is it used for. In the early stages of dementia it may not be necessary and the cons outweigh the pros, as the person may feel loss of dignity and somewhat dehumanized by the whole process. But there will come a time, that you need to start making decisions for them and your peace of mind should become more important than their loss of privacy.
What are the Smallest Personal Tracking Devices?
As the technology progresses the PTDs are becoming smaller and smaller. Today most personal tracking devices are the size of a small cell phone/car key fob, but actually there is no limit to how small a personal tracking device can be. This size currently in use is pretty much optimal for its purpose.
Some of the smaller ones are made by Ping that are the size of a quarter. Others are even smaller and can be disguised within clothing items, footwear and even into beautiful hairpins, watches, earrings, pendants and other jewelry. These are known as wearable trackers as they can be worn like everyday fashion items without looking like trackers. Nowadays, there are even tinier tracking devices that can be placed under the skin or inside teeth, but I will not cover those in this review.
8 Best Location Devices for Dementia Patients
1. Spy Tec STI GL300 Real-Time Mini-Portable GPS Tracker
When you take care of someone with dementia, your first priority is to find a tracker that is both accurate and reliable. The Spy Tec STI GL300 GPS tracker does a pretty good job with that. It measures 0.9 by 1.5 by 2.7 inches and weighs only 0.5 pounds.
In addition to its compactness, it comes equipped with a belt holster and magnetic waterproof case that can be attached onto vehicles and other metal objects you wish to track. You can also place it inside the user’s handbag or backpack if you wish.
It conducts real-time tracking, sending the location updates to its website every 5 seconds which makes it easy to track people and vehicles in motion. It also does mapping of an area and you can view someone’s location on Google maps.
It also offers geo-fencing option so you can set up a geographical radius within which your patient should stay. The moment they leave this set radius, you will be alerted immediately by a text message or email. This GPS tracker can store any location data for up to a year and the reports can be exported to your email.
The Spy Tec STI GL300 is equipped with a 3-axis accelerometer that improves its accuracy with motion detection. Its motion activation feature ensures that its battery power is consumed only when needed, thus increasing its battery life, which can last up to 2 weeks.
- Easy to install as it is compact and lightweight.
- Has a longer battery life, thanks to its motion activation feature.
- Offers precise motion and location detection as it has a 3-axis accelerometer.
- Offers real-time updates on its location every 5 seconds.
- Features feature
- Does not have a compatible smartphone app.
- Works only in areas with T-mobile coverage.
2. PocketFinder+ 3G GPS/WiFi/Cell ID Personal Tracker
The PocketFinder+ 3G GPS tracker is designed to make tracking of people and assets more accurate, convenient and effective. With its advanced locating technology, you can use it both indoors or outdoors. It offers real time updates every 10 seconds and you can view the data both on its website and also via its smartphone app. Apart from the real-time reports, you can view its 60-day history as well.
PocketFinder comes with a geo-fencing capabilities, allowing you to set the exact zone that the dementia patent is allowed to use without notification going off. You also get a similar alert in case of a low battery or if its SOS button has been pressed, so you can respond to emergencies promptly.
Many people are worried about the privacy issues with these GPS trackers. In recent years there have been cases where malicious individuals have hacked into baby monitors and GPS trackers, so you may wonder how safe are these products? Well you will be pleased to know that this item comes with military grade security and privacy protection that should keep all your data safe and secure.
This PocketFinder+ is compact, lightweight, sturdy and water resistant up to 3 feet deep, so it will withstand extreme weather conditions. Another good thing with PocketFinder is that it allows you to view multiple trackers on the same map, so you can conveniently track multiple people and assets simultaneously.
With its GPS/A-GPS, Cell ID, 3G and WiFi connectivity, this tracker is known to for its precision and accuracy. To use this tracker, you pay a monthly fee of $12.95 if you are based in Canada, US or Mexico.
- Compact and lightweight.
- Easy to install.
- More accurate than other GPS trackers.
- Comes with a convenient and easy to use web interface and smartphone app.
- Waterproof up to 3 feet deep.
- Secure and good privacy protection.
- Allows viewing of multiple trackers on the map at the same time.
- Provides real-time location updates in 10-second intervals.
- Its battery life is shorter when it is set to the shortest notification interval.
The next 3 products on our list are similar in design, but they are offered by different providers so there are some minor differences.
The MOTOSafety MTAS1 Personal GPS tracker helps you to keep track of everything and everyone you love and value. With its compact and lightweight design it can fit pretty much anywhere including backpacks, purses, onto belts, animal collars, clothing and footwear.
You can receive alerts when the person or valuables leave or enter a particular location or zone, thanks to its geo-fencing technology. Its location reports are real-time, with intervals of 60 seconds, which is longer that others on this list, but it also means that the battery holds a little better.
The battery itself is rechargeable via USB, and it can last up to 14 days. It features a low battery LED alert to let you know exactly when you need to recharge it and it recharges fully in 6 hours. It only makes use of GPS and 4G cellular technology, and not Bluetooth, so it is meant to work on wider radius. You can see which network it is using by looking at the small blue and green lights on the front.
MOTOSafety comes with an easy to use free smartphone app that is compatible with both Android and iOS devices and allow easier access to the area’s map, receiving of alerts and adjusting various settings. Its subscription fee is $19.99 a month.
- Compact and lightweight.
- Easy to install.
- It can send customized location updates.
- Uses geo-fencing technology.
- Comes with a map on which you can view the tracker’s location.
- Has a very long lasting battery.
- Location details can be accessed via mobile app or web interface.
- May not work in some areas because of incompatible network coverage.
Somewhat similar to the MotoSafety device, The Linxup LTAS1 comes with everything you need in a GPS tracker. This includes rechargeable battery and free to use app and website. Long, 2-week battery life allows you to track valuables and loved ones for a longer period of time without the worry of it going offline prematurely. Tracker’s LED lights indicate whether it is using a cellular network or GPS and whether you need to charge the gadget.
For the purpose of accuracy of location detection, this GPS tracker uses 4G cellular network or GPS positioning to detect the location of a person or the asset. It is very compact and lightweight, thus can be placed anywhere including onto clothing, footwear, pet collars, belts, bags and purses.
You will also get customized updates and notifications via email or sms alerts in case the person or item you are tracking leaves or enters a specified location. It also allows route replay for viewing the tracker’s location history as well as setting of curfew hours, thus great for tracking kids and teenagers. Its subscription fee is $22.99 per month and multiple users can access it depending on your plan.
- Easy to use.
- Compact and lightweight.
- Can be used with its web interface or smartphone app.
- Uses 4G cellular network and GPS for accurate location detection.
- Its battery is long lasting.
- Come with geo-fencing technology.
- Its real time updates are reliable.
- It can be set to send customized notifications and alerts to the user according to their preference.
- Sometimes it freezes, which may cause delays in updates.
The Aware GPS ATAS1 comes in the size of a car key fob, thus you can place it anywhere and on anything. It comes with a magnetic case so you can also stick it onto a car or put it inside a bag, purse or pocket and you will be good to go.
At just $19.99 a month, you will be able to receive regular updates on the location of this GPS tracker. You can also get customized updates and alerts sent to your computer or phone whenever the person or item you are tracking enters or leaves the specified zone. This GPS tracker also lets you view its location on a map. Like previous 2 products, this too has a long battery life, averaging up to 14 days which is long enough for most cases. Equally it comes with LED lights to signal low battery power, GPS or cellular network usage.
- Lightweight and compact, therefore portable and easy to install.
- Uses both cellular and GPS networks for accurate and precise location detection.
- Allows sending of regular location updates to its website.
- Allows sending of customized alerts in case the person or item being tracked enters or leaves the specified zone.
- Has a long battery life, which is very reliable.
- Comes with storage case.
- It cannot be used outside US.
While most GPS trackers allow you to see only their location, the Logistimatics Mobile-200 goes a step further and lets you listen to what is happening at its location. Therefore, in case your loved one who suffers from dementia veered off their course and had a medical emergency, you can know if they have called 911 or not.
All you need to do is call the tracker’s phone number. Apart from this, it offers real time GPS location updates every 30 seconds. You can actually access the route playback history and current location reports via the web interface or its iOS or Android mobile app. You will also get a text or email alert in case the person or item being tracked enters or exits the geo-fenced zone.
Given that it is small and lightweight, it can be installed easily. The waterproof tracker comes with a magnetic mount which makes it ideal for cars, but it can be equally well used to track people.
The battery can last up to 2 or 3 weeks between charges and the tracking plan starts at $14.95 a month, which includes 30-second updates and 2 hours of live audio. However, you can extend the live audio provision at $3 per hour per month. This GPS tracker comes with a sim card preinstalled, and it works only in US, Mexico and Canada.
- Compact and lightweight, thus portable and easy to install.
- Weatherproof, therefore can be used under any weather conditions without going offline.
- Good web interface or smartphone app.
- Offers real time audio monitoring for a more accurate idea of whatever is happening at the tracker’s location.
- Sends emergency alerts to your phone via text or email whenever the person or item being tracked enters or leaves the geo-fenced zone.
- Has a long and reliable battery life.
- Live audio is one-way, thus there is no way to speak to the person on the other end.
- The audio quality is not that perfect.
We have saved one of the most popular models for last. This Americaloc GL300W is a perfect personal GPS tracker if you are willing to spend a little more money for a monthly subscription. The fee is $25 per month, but it will lower if you commit to longer period.
Similar to other trackers Americaloc shows you whether the tracker is using GPS or cellular network.
The best thing about this GPS location tracker is its real time location updates that come in at 1-minute intervals. You can also configure it to send location updates after every 10 or 30 seconds depending on urgency and preference, but this will inevitably shorten the battery life though.
It offers a 1-year location tracking history, and all information and reports are kept safe and secure for later viewing. With its web interface or smartphone app, you can easily track location, view location history and adjust settings. It works with stronger 2G network coverage as compared to the previous models.
- Small and lightweight.
- Has a longer battery life as compared to other models.
- Convenient as it can be controlled and its location reports viewed on the web interface or smartphone app.
- Sends prompt text or email alerts in case of the tracker’s location being within a specific zone, or the battery being low.
- Its location updates can be sent as soon as 10 seconds in frequency, thus easier to locate the tracker’s location.
- It allows you to view a 1-year history of the tracker’s location.
- It does not work well inside buildings and when placed on metal surfaces.
- Its location freezes from time to time in between update intervals, which may result in reading of a wrong location.
8. GPS Tracker for Things- Key Finder Pair
The KeyRinger, sold in pairs, is useful for finding misplaced keys or other household items. The device has two units, each of which is capable of finding the other. If one is attached to the person’s keychain, for example, clicking the Find button on the other will make the missing unit beep loudly (for 15 seconds) and flash a bright light.
The photograph above is just to give you an idea about the size of the product when it is placed on the Iphone. It is small, but not tiny.
One KeyRinger can be kept on the refrigerator to keep it handy for finding a missing key ring or another item to which the other KeyRinger has been attached. A popular configuration is to attach one unit to a key ring and one to the TV remote control. This way, the one on the key ring can be used to find a misplaced remote control and the one on the remote can be used to find missing keys. Though this device works up to 300 feet, it does not penetrate walls, so you need to go room by room to find a lost item.
A person with dementia, however, may not be able to learn how to use the locator device or may misplace the devices. You, the caregiver, may want to keep one handy in order to help the person find lost items that have a locator device on them. Check the product information and prices here.
- Loud beep – easy to hear if lost items are in drawers or under a seat cushion
- Flashing red light helps find items in the dark
- Effective in our testing – even found keys we hid under a mattress
- People with dementia can get very upset when they lose and cannot find their belongings (keys, purse, remote control, or even a cane)
- When used correctly, this device can reduce distressing time spent on finding objects.
- Number of times you press Find button When you first use the KeyRinger to find a lost item, you must double-click the blue find button. This reduces false alarms if it was to get accidentally bumped, say in your purse. However, even though the label on the key ringer says “double click”, several of our testers kept forgetting during the one month test period and were clicking just once, which has no effect. But if no more than 15 seconds has gone by and you don’t find the lost item after clicking the first time, then you press the find button once to try again. Knowing whether to press once or twice could be confusing to a person with dementia.
- Pressing the wrong “button”. Though the KeyRinger units are correctly labeled, the design led some testers to press the wrong part of the unit, raising some initial frustration. It’s worth taking a moment to describe the issue, to help you provide the right instructions to the person you care for. Though the actual button to activate the KeyRinger is blue and is labeled “Double Click,” it is not raised enough to look like a button, while the nearby Sound Deflector is raised and does have the appearance of a button. Inevitably, some testers were pushing the Sound Deflector rather than the blue button. This, of course, had no result. The product would be easier to use, especially for someone with dementia, if the blue button/label were raised and the instructions said “Double Click Here” rather than just “Double Click.”
- Turning off the sound on a lost item that you have found If the sound on a found item is still beeping (it beeps for 15 seconds, then turns off), you must press the blue label on the item that was lost – NOT the KeyRinger in your hand that you are searching with. This may be confusing to a person with dementia.
- Losing the device Some caregivers keep one device on them at all times in a convenient location.
- False alarms The KeyRinger may occasionally emit a false alarm in response to loud sounds; however, in our testing, we had no false alarms. Other key locator devices that we tested consistently sounded false alarms and beeped in response to loud sounds or vibrations (e.g., a truck going by).
- As we’ve noted before, the person with dementia may not be able to learn how to use the device or may misplace the devices. You, the caregiver, may want to have your own device and keep it someplace handy (your own key ring), so you can help the person find lost items that have a locator device on them.
- Do not press the Find button close to someone’s ear – the sound is loud enough to be painful or damage hearing.
The GPS personal tracking devices we have reviewed above each come with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Since there is nothing perfect under the sun, we have to learn to work around some cons. Depending on your specific needs, you will be able to choose from any of the above. The good news is that all of them are very affordable and you have so many choices at your disposal if you are working on a low budget. We can never dispute the fact that GPS tracking devices have given both caregivers and asset owners some peace of mind, and their patients and valuables, some more independence and freedom. It is therefore necessary to get one if you take care of a loved one with dementia.