Should You Use GPS Trackers For Seniors With Dementia or Alzheimers?

By: Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

Wandering is a frequent behavior of seniors with dementia and Alzheimers. GPS trackers can help you keep tabs on your vulnerable loved ones. But, this technology might not be right for everyone. Here are some pros and cons of using GPS technology to track the elderly.

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Both Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can cause issues that compromise one’s ability to remain self-dependent. Both can negatively impact one’s working memory as it is typically one of the first reported side effects of a patient suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Unfortunately, wandering is a common behavior in those that suffer from dementia and cognitive impairment can cause them to get lost. This can present major problems. After all, as a loved one, the thought of allowing one suffering from this dreaded disease to live on their own is absolutely terrifying.

However, there are new technological solutions that can help not only give you back your sanity but also to keep your loved ones as safe as possible. GPS trackers offer a great opportunity for loved ones to be able to track seniors suffering from dementia and Alzheimers.

Below, I’ll be going over whether or not you should be using them, some concerns you might have, and some tips about discussing using them with your elderly parents.

Some Of The Pros Of Using GPS Trackers:

1. Giving Them Back A Sense Of Independence

One of the main things that get to seniors as they continue to age is not being able to live like they used to. The first thing that gets stripped is their independence. By using a tracking device to keep tabs on your loved ones, it will allow you to effectively hand back a sense of their independence without sacrificing your sanity knowing you can find them whenever you need to.

2. Maintain Comfort and Continuity

By using a tracking device, you will be able to keep your loved ones comfortable in their own homes and living with continuity that they wouldn’t get without one. A tracking device should give your loved one and yourself the confidence you need to allow them to continue going on about their normal everyday lives for as long as possible.

3. Safety Net

Not only does having a tracking device improve your own peace of mind, but it can improve the peace of mind of your loved one. Most that are in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s are fully cognizant of how much it can weigh on their family. Because of this, they will be happy to be able to provide greater peace of mind knowing that their families don’t have to constantly worry about them when they are absent.

woman hugging her mother with dementia after talking about GPS trackers
Dementia is a major stressor for the senior as well as the caregiver. Finding healthy ways to cope is very important.

Some Of The Cons Of Using GPS Trackers:

1. A Loss Of Privacy

Some seniors might feel like their privacy is being infringed upon when they are tracked by anyone – including their family. There are legitimate privacy gripes that someone can have, but sometimes a little privacy has to be lost for peace of mind and safety to be gained. After all, it is said both patients with dementia and their caregivers have the belief that the benefits far outweigh the harm.

2. Perceived Loss Of Self-Respect

A lot of seniors might have an old-school mindset about these things. There is actually a stigma associated with using these devices. They might directly associate them with the chips we place on our pets to keep them from getting lost. The fact is, a GPS tracker is much like keeping your cell phone on you at all times but much more reliable. There shouldn’t be any loss of dignity or self-respect.

Are There Privacy Concerns Of Tracking Someone Unknowingly?

You absolutely need to be certain that you are using these devices in their best interest. And, it is probably best to do so with their consent. It might even be illegal in some areas to do otherwise. But, depending on their medical status, they may or may not be able to give “legal consent.” If you have a medical power of attorney, is that good enough? You should talk to an attorney if you have concerns about this.

The devices are meant to help them regain a sense of normalcy and to allow them to continue living somewhat independently for as long as possible. Therefore, at some point, you will need to have the talk with your elderly parents or your loved one with this condition.

daughter discussing gps trackers for elderly with her mother

Tips For Having “The Talk” (No, Not That One)

If your loved ones are the same as mine, they won’t be too thrilled about having to wear a tracking device. However, there are ways to get them to come around to the idea.

There are plenty of benefits you can throw their way to make it worth their while.

For one, you can tell them about how it will enable them to be free to roam around and live their normal life. Otherwise, they will have to have someone by their side at all times. Likewise, you can tell them about the ability to live their life without you calling in to check on them every 5 minutes. You wouldn’t believe how quickly your loved ones will jump at it once they hear that.

Also, don’t forget to tell them about the different GPS trackers for elderly adults that are available. They might assume you want them to wear a dog collar or something ridiculous. Let them know how far technology has come and they will be able to get a GPS tracking device that they can keep on themselves either with a wristwatch, a necklace, a pendant, a wristband, or a lot of other devices. Knowing they have so many options to choose from might make it a little easier for them to accept that they will have a tracking device on them 24/7.

Summary and Final Recommendations

Overall, if you have a loved one or loved ones with this horrible disease, you will want to take a proactive approach. While your loved ones might fight back with having to be tracked 24/7, the fight is totally worth it.

Also Read: GPS Tracking Watches for Seniors

Once you have the tracking device in place, you will have the peace of mind of being able to look at your mobile device to see where your loved one is at all times. This will allow you to feel comfortable allowing them to be free to continue living on their own and not having to constantly call them every 5 minutes during the day and night.

It can help them regain their sanity just as much as yourself! By taking the risk of getting disoriented and lost out of the picture, as the saying goes, they can go back to living their best life.

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