Alzheimer’s is more than just a chronic neurodegenerative disease – it’s an absolutely debilitating condition that millions of people struggle with on a daily basis. According to the experts at ALZ.org, more than five million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s in the United States alone. It’s the sixth leading cause of death in this country, something that ultimately leads to the death of one out of every three seniors and also costs family caregivers more than $5,000 per year.
Alzheimer’s patients often find themselves in dangerous situations due to the heightened levels of confusion they experience regularly. They may go outside, forget what they were trying to do in the first place and wander off – leading to a very serious situation for their loved ones. Thankfully, technology has evolved in recent years in ways that make this process easier for all involved. GPS tracking, in particular, has seen incredible gains in terms of keeping Alzheimer’s patients safe and sound at all times.
Alzheimer’s and GPS Tracking
According to one study, more than 15 million caregivers provided roughly 18.1 billion hours of unpaid care to Alzheimer’s patients around the country in 2015. Again, a large part of this was devoted to just making sure that an affected patient was safe and accounted for as much as possible.
According to another study, as many as 60 to 70% of those who are affected by Alzheimer’s will wander (and likely get lost) at some point during their battle with the disease. If they are not found within 24 hours, their chance of death increases by an unfortunate 50%.
Many organizations are stepping up to the plate to help relieve these concerns as much as possible through technology, with Project Lifesaver being just one notable example. Over the course of the last 15 years, Project Lifesaver has outfitted patients and their caregivers with GPS tracking devices built with safety in mind.
Affected patients can be given a small “Protect and Locate” tracker, also commonly referred to as a PAL tracker. It operates nearly identically to the GPS that you may use for turn-by-turn directions in your car, with one notable difference – each device has a unique signal tied to the wearer and can be worn around the wrist, almost like a sports watch or a fitness tracker. If an Alzheimer’s patient happens to wander, a caregiver can contact Project Lifesaver and trained emergency response teams will be notified. Project Lifesaver’s website indicates that the average recovery time in these situations is 30 minutes or less.
Many consumer-grade products are already available to purchase on your own, even if you’re not interested in partnering with an organization like Project Lifesaver. Devices are almost always wearable in nature, which cuts down on the possibility of them being lost, damaged or stolen. Loved ones can use a smartphone app or log into a website (depending on the device in question) and instantly find the location of their elderly family member at all times –generating some much-needed peace of mind and relieving much of the stress that comes with these situations.
It’s important to note, however, that GPS trackers cannot prevent a loved one from wandering – they will only help you when wandering does occur. In an effort to remain as prepared as possible, it’s always important to take a few key steps. First, make sure the Alzheimer’s patient’s home is safe and secure – significantly cutting down the risk of them accidentally harming themselves. Create a detailed plan for what you will do if they happen to wander – who will you call, what steps will you take, etc. Always keep a recent photograph of the loved one handy in the event that you need to contact the authorities.
Above all else, always let friends and neighbors know as much about the situation as possible. Remember that we’re all in this together, and caring for an Alzheimer’s patient isn’t something you should attempt to do on your own.