Dementia is a condition caused by an unfortunately large number of brain illnesses, all of which usually have the same devastating effect: They affect someone’s memory, thinking, behavior and even the ability to live a happy, healthy and safe life every day. According to one recent study conducted by the World Health Organization, about 47 million people all over the world are currently living with dementia. That number is expected to climb to 75 million by as soon as 2030. By just a few decades later, in 2050, that number will have doubled from today’s totals.
The most important thing to understand about dementia is that it doesn’t just negatively affect the people who actually have it. It makes a significant impact on the lives of their loved ones as well. People living with dementia are naturally difficult to care for and are prone to wandering off and finding themselves in dangerous situations due to heightened levels of confusion and other issues.
This is a problem that people all over the globe have been battling for years, and now it seems like a number of tech-focused solutions may be just over the horizon. One such solution will involve tracking dementia patients using GPS chips in their slippers, providing real-time insight and visibility into their current location at any given moment.
GPS Technology and Dementia Patients: What You Need to Know
The types of slippers fitted with GPS tracking devices that could soon become available from NHS, according to one recent piece that ran on Barchester.com, are designed to help solve a number of pressing issues — essentially all at the same time. Often, dementia sufferers will wander away from home without actually telling anyone where they’re going. Because of the nature of the disease, it’s often likely that they don’t know themselves where they’re headed — they just feel compelled to change locations. Then, after becoming disoriented and lost, they’re unable to find their way home — creating a dangerous situation with little to no immediate resolutions.
The types of GPS-powered slippers that people are talking about, however, could be used as something of an “early warning system” for these types of incidents. A sole with a GPS chip inside can be inserted into the slipper, which would also have the added benefit of allowing it to be easily transferred to any other piece of footwear. Much like GPS devices that are aimed at tracking children, family members of dementia suffers could use associated software applications to set up certain “safe zones” and other parameters.
So if you were taking care of an elderly loved one with dementia but didn’t want them to be able to leave the yard, or you didn’t want them to move too far down the street without checking in, you could program these restrictions into the device itself. Then, if the loved one moved beyond those boundaries, you could get an instant alert to a registered smartphone, tablet or other mobile device. Even if you had to step away for a few hours one afternoon but wanted to make sure that the loved one was staying at home, you could do that as well. You could use any device with an active Internet connection to check in on that loved one’s current location in seconds, narrowing down their position to a range of just a few meters.
These particular slippers come with an initial cost of £75 to actually purchase the device, with an additional £26 per month charge required to maintain the continued GPS connection and functionality. A number of charities that work with patients suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s all over the world have already spoken out in support of these types of technological advancements. Sally Copley, a spokesperson from the Alzheimer’s Society, even went as far as to say “the use of GPS tracking for people with dementia can not only provide reassurance — it can literally save lives.”
When you put it like that, it’s clear that £26 per month is a small price to pay for the peace of mind alone that these devices will generate for families and patients everywhere.