Six out of ten people will wander, and often the person will not remember their name or home address or be able to communicate, so it’s vital that they carry some form of identification. You can read more about wandering here.
MedicAlert + Safe Return program
One program, the Alzheimer’s Association’s MedicAlert + Safe Return program, offers an ID bracelet (or pendant) that has an individual’s engraved member number and an 800 number, as well as critical health information.
When you notice the person is missing, you call the 800 number (MedicAlert) and they send the person’s photo to the local police department. Or, a Good Samaritan or police officer may find the missing person, call the 800 number, and works with trained emergency responders to get the person back home safely or get medical attention, as needed.
The local Alzheimer’s Association Chapter also provides support and help for you with post-incident follow up.
24/7 Web-Based Location Service Using GPS
Comfort Zone is a web based GPS and A-GPS location management system, developed by the Alzheimer’s Association, to help you locate a loved one when the person is carrying a GPS device or has one mounted in their car. The device uses cell towers and/or satellite signals to find its location & sends that information to the Alzheimer’s Association web mapping service.
You and other family members can view the person’s location on a web map 24/7 by using the secure website or you can place a toll free call to the monitoring center. The battery needs to be charged approximately every 2-1/2 to 3 days, depending on the plan you choose.
Each locator system has advantages and limitations, which you should review before making a commitment, to be sure it will work in your situation. This service has many flexible options, including the ability to receive alerts when a loved one leaves a preset boundary. It can provide peace of mind for you, the caregiver, and help locate loved ones and save lives.
Wristband – Cellular Network
This emergency locator system, integrated with the national 911 system, uses the same cellular network that regular cell phones use to locate a missing person who is wearing the locator device.
Here’s how it works: if the person is missing, you call 911 and file a missing person report. Then you place a toll free call to the device company’s emergency center, which activates the device, which, in turn, notifies 911 of its location. The dispatcher then views the device location on their electronic map. The police are then directed to the location and will assist the person home.
Every type of locator system has advantages and limitations, which you should review before making a commitment to be sure it will work in your situation. This cellular locator system, in the right situation, can provide peach of mind for you, the caregiver, and help find loved ones and save lives.
Wristband – Radio Frequency
This emergency locator system uses FM radio waves to locate a missing person who is wearing the device. Here’s how it works: if the person is missing, you call the designated authorities, usually 911, and file a missing person report. Then law enforcement or another public safety agency is dispatched. Using special equipment, they can pick up the unique signals emitted from your loved one’s device – within one mile of their location. Once the person is found, the police escort him or her to safety.
Every type of locator system has advantages and limitations, which you should review before making a commitment to be sure it will work in your situation. This radio frequency locator system, in the right situation, can provide peace of mind for you, the caregiver, and help find loved ones and save lives.
Cell Phones with GPS
Cell phones with GPS tracking abilities are still in their infancy and many wrinkles need to be ironed out before they can be useful across the board for people with dementia. Cell phones are best used with a live-in or nearby caregiver who can oversee maintenance and usage – and even this doesn’t guarantee success. The problems are not insurmountable, but they need to be taken into consideration.
For one, cell phones and GPS services are limited by location – you need to be close to cell towers to get good reception and GPS signals can be obstructed by mountains, trees, and tall buildings. Two, the batteries need to be charged on a regular basis and most people with dementia will not remember or know how to do this. Third, the person must agree and remember to carry the phone – or you’ll need to conceal it on the person, which is easier said then done. Finally, getting accurate information on GPS technology and cell phones can be daunting.
Using GPS to track persons with dementia holds great promise for the future. But, even with its current limitations, it may be helpful to some individuals and families. Depending on the GPS services available in your area, you can view the person’s location – as long as they’re carrying the phone – on a web-enabled computer, cell phone, or personal digital assistant (PDA). On some models, you can set a defined area that the person can walk around in & then receive an alert if the boundary is crossed.
Short Distance Device – Radio Frequency
Radio frequency locator devices, originally developed to locate autistic children, have potential for helping to locate a person with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, but there are major drawbacks that need to be resolved before they’re reliable.
For example, in our testing, we were only able to locate each other at a country fair and on a residential street 50% of the time, but not at all in a large New York above ground train station. At times we had interference, like thick walls or trees that rendered the device useless, sending us in the wrong direction or not even registering a location.
We’re reporting on this device because it is now advertised & promoted for helping locate persons with Alzheimer’s and it may be helpful in some limited situations, when it works. For example, a short distance locator alarm could be useful in backyards; for example, you may think it’s safe for the person to be gardening, but want assurance just in case they wander off.
But you’ll need to test any product you’re considering using several times to see if it works for your desired applications. And you still need to have other strategies in place – make sure the person carries ID on them (card in wallet, labels in clothes, etc.) just in case the device you’re using doesn’t work.
Other challenging hurdles include having to charge the batteries regularly and getting the person to use the tracking device.
We recommend encouraging the person to wear a bright hat, shirt or jacket. When we were attempting to locate each other, it made it so much easierto find the person when we were wearing bright colors.