GPS Technology Used to Keep Tabs on Dementia Patients

A growing number of people in the community are dealing with dementia

The profile of a Red Deer technology company is being enhanced by a study into the use electronic devices to monitor people with dementia and other cognitive impairments.

Wandering,Dementia,Senior,Alzheimers Bracelet

Elderly Woman with Dementia at risk of Wandering

SafeTracks GPS Canada Inc. supplied the GPS (global positioning system) equipment for the Locator Device Project, a trial being headed by Alberta Health Services and the University of Alberta. It involves 40 participants in Calgary and Grande Prairie who have been equipped with GPS tracking devices.

Some are wearing a cellphone-like unit called an ST200 PRIME; others have a TRiLOC GPS Locator watch, and the rest have electronic GPS SmartSoles in their shoes — all provided by SafeTracks. If they wander out of a designated area, their caregivers are alerted by email and text.

All three units will indicate the precise location of their wearers, and the ST200 PRIME and TRiLOC GPS Locator allow for two-way verbal communication.

Bob Aloisio, SafeTracks co-founder and vice-president, added that the T200 PRIME and TRiLOC GPS Locator also enable their users to summon help — similar to the popular Lifeline medical alert system that many seniors use in their homes.

“A senior can essentially take that same proven technology anywhere,” said Aloisio.

“Instead of being 400 feet from the house and it not working, now they can go into Walmart or the Legion, hit the button and get the same type of service that they were getting before.”

Tracy Raadik-Ruptash, the project lead with Alberta Health Services, said the trial was undertaken to help people with cognitive impairments remain at home, and make it easier for their caregivers to monitor them.

“We have a growing number of people in the community who are dealing with dementia because of the aging population, so it’s a pressing issue for people who want to stay at home as long as possible and for family who want to try to support their loved ones and their wishes to be safe and independent in the community for as long as possible.”

Information provided by Alberta Health Services indicated that more than 40,000 Albertans are affected by dementia, and about three out of every five seniors with dementia who live in the community wander. The number of Alberta seniors with dementia is expected to exceed 100,000 by 2038.

Raadik-Ruptash said the study, which began nearly a year ago, also involves her department’s Home Care Program, Emergency Medical Services, Alzheimers organizations in Alberta and police services, among others. Early feedback has been positive, she said, with caregivers saying the devices give them some peace of mind.

“There’s definitely that stress release that they feel from the use of this technology.”

It’s too soon to say how Alberta Health Services might respond to the study, said Raadik-Ruptash.

“We’ll consider the results and see if there’s a role for this technology in the provision of health care services,” she said, adding that Alberta Health Services wants to educate the public about the opportunities that exist with GPS monitoring.

The technology is catching on, said Aloisio.

“We’ve got clients clear across Canada. I would say about 60 per cent of our business is specifically within Alberta, and then it’s spread out across Canada.”

The Alberta study has helped fuel interest.

“We’re starting to employ devices because of everything we’re doing with Alberta Health Services.”

SafeTracks initially focused on GPS-equipped ankle bracelets and other tracking devices worn by offenders under court order. About 3 1/2 years ago, it expanded into personal tracking, including devices to protect those in high-risk professions or situations

Monitoring of people with conditions like dementia, or even autism, was a natural progression, said Aloisio.

Information about SafeTracks can be found online at https://www.safetracksgps.ca.

Originally published March 16, 2015 in Red Deer Advocate.

By Harley Richards – Red Deer Advocate