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Electronic locating devices follow a person's movements and identify the location.
When you are deciding whether to use a locating device, consider the benefits, drawbacks and safety needs.
Here are a few questions to help you consider whether a locating device is right for the person:
- During a person's life, what value has he/she placed on freedom and independence versus safety and security?
- How do these values influence the decision to use a locating device?
- What effect, if any, will there be on personal dignity? How important is this?
- At what point would it be agreeable to start using a locating device?
- Are there legal issues to consider if the person is no longer able to have input into the decision?
Types of devices
Locating devices use a transmitter installed in items such as a wristband or cellphone.
All devices relay radio signals back to a receiver that identifies a person's location. Different devices use different methods of locating.
Global Positioning System (GPS)
A global positioning system, or GPS, uses radio signals transmitted from satellites to electronic receivers to identify the location of a person wearing a transmitter.
This type of system is exact to within a few metres. It is intended for outdoor use, but may not be able to pinpoint the location if the satellite signal is affected e.g., under bridges, with electrical interference or in very dense bush. Typically it will not work in buildings, underground or underwater.
Some systems allow the caregiver to track the person using an Internet map, while others allow caregivers to define safe boundaries for the person. (A signal will be sent if the person goes outside of the set boundaries.) Another available system is an A-GPS (assisted global positioning system), which uses an assistance server (cell tower) to reduce locating time.
Radio frequency (also known as RF, Frequency Modulation or homing device):
This type of system uses radio signals to determine a person's location. It can be used indoors and can pinpoint a person's location but has a short-range, usually less than five kilometres.
The user can activate a locating system, usually by dialling 911.
Deciding on a device
To what type of device best serves your needs, consider the following:
- Where will it likely be used (in a private residence, a care facility, indoors, outdoors or in multiple locations)?
- Where will a search likely take place (within a building, outdoors, in an urban or a rural area, in a tree-covered or open space, near water)?
- Which devices are most appropriate for these settings?
- How much freedom of movement will the device allow?
- If necessary, will the person with dementia be able to use the device?
- Who will be doing the monitoring or locating? Family? Caregiver? Police? Outside organization?
- Also evaluate the device for user-friendliness, cost, reliability, accessibility, comfort and whether the device is discreet/invasive and acceptable to the person wearing it.
MedicAlert® Safely Home®
MedicAlert® Safely Home® was developed by the Alzheimer Society of Canada in partnership with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The registry stores vital information confidentially on a police database. Police anywhere in Canada and the United States can access the information. If is recommended that all people with Alzheimer's disease who are at risk of getting lost should be registered with MedicAlert® Safely Home®.
The York Regional Police Project Lifesaver Program combines radio technology with police rescue teams to build an effective life-saving system for wandering and disoriented people in York Region.
Those who are a part of the Project Lifesaver program wear a personalized wristband that emits a tracking signal.
This program operates as a non-profit and works within a cost recovery framework. The cost of the equipment is $300 at initial enrollment, which covers the cost of the bracelet. There is an additional monthly fee of $10 for the replacement of the battery and bracelet when needed.
Persons will be assessed for admission to this program.
Safety in the Home
The familiar space of home is important for someone diagnosed with dementia, offering a connection with the past and maintaining a sense of who self.
However, some changes may need to be made to keep the home dementia-friendly.
Keep in mind some of the changes that occur with dementia:
- Decreased balance and reaction time
- Visual-perceptual problems
- Physical limitations that make it more difficult to walk
- Memory, judgment; and insight.
Also keep in mind that you are more likely to be tired, and feel under pressure, making it more difficult for you to anticipate risk and prevent accidents.
Adapt the task to the person's current abilities and be aware you will need re-evaluate as the disease progresses.
Take a few minutes to complete the following checklist on home safety. Keep in mind that, as the disease progresses, you may need to update your responses.
- Lock any hazard areas or cover the doors or locks so they are disguised. Place locks either high or low on doors to make them less obvious.
- Remove locks in bathrooms or bedrooms.
- Use child-proof locks and doorknob covers on drawers and cupboards that have knives, cleaning liquids and appliances.
- Use appliances that have an automatic shut-off feature, and keep appliances away from sinks and other sources of water.
- If you are concerned about the person using the stove, install a hidden gas valve or circuit breaker that prevents it from being turned on. Or consider removing the knobs from the burners.
- Store tools such as grills, lawn mowers, power tools and knives in a secure place.
- Remove any toxic plants or decorative fruits that one might mistakenly eat.
- Remove any medications or other items such as sugar or seasonings from open areas such as the kitchen table and counters. Keep medications in a locked area.
- Check the temperature of water and food, as a person diagnosed with the disease may have difficulty telling the difference.
- Install safety equipment in the bathroom, such as grab bars, to prevent falls.
- Add non-slip stickers to slippery surfaces such as tile floors and loose rugs. Or remove rugs completely.
- Use contrasting colours to make steps and transitions (e.g. the beginning of a staircase) easier to see. Avoid dark rugs as they may appear to be a hole.
- Use good lighting at entries, outside landings, between rooms, on stairways and in bathrooms.
- Keep emergency numbers by the phone for quick access.
- Consult an occupational therapist for advice on safety, and adapting the home to make it as safe and accommodating as possible.
For further details on keeping your home safe, see the publication, Home Safety for People with Alzheimer’s Disease on the website for U.S. National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging.
Vulnerable Person Registry
The Vulnerable Person Registry is a free service for York Region residents. The program assists York Regional Police to quickly identify and return lost or wandering persons to their caregiver.
Applications are available by contacting: 1-888-414-5550 or visit York Region Police to start the application.