Tech to keep family with dementia safe
Dear Savvy Senior,
My husband, who lives at home, has dementia, and I worry about him wandering off and not being able to get back. Can you recommend some monitoring technology devices or any other solutions that can help me keep tabs on him?
This is a concern for millions of Americans caring for a loved one with dementia at home. About 60 percent of people who suffer from dementia wander at some point, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Many of those who wander off end up confused and lost, even in their own neighborhood, and are unable to communicate who they are or where they live.
Here are some products and service solutions that may help.
For starters, there are a number of simple home modifications you can do to keep your husband from wandering away.
These solutions include adding an extra lock on the top or bottom of the exterior doors out of the line of sight, or installing door alarms on the exterior doors that let you know when they’re opened.
See AlzStore.com for a variety of product solutions. And be sure to hide the car keys to keep him from driving.
You should also alert your neighbors that your husband may wander so they can keep an eye out. Have a recent picture of him on hand to show around the neighborhood or to the police if he does get lost.
In terms of high-tech solutions, there are a variety of wearable GPS tracking devices available today.
Some top options to consider include AngelSense (AngelSense.com), which can be attached to clothing or worn around the waist; wristwatches like the Theora Connect (TheoraCare.com) or NurtureWatch (NurtureWatch.com); and the GPS SmartSole (GPSSmartSole.com), which is a shoe insole tracker.
All of these products come with smartphone apps that would alert you if your husband were to wander beyond a pre-established safe area, and would let you know where to find him if he did.
These products (except the GPS SmartSole) also provide two-way voice communication and auto pickup speakerphone so you can talk to him if he does wander off.
There are also locating services that can help you if he wanders away.
The MedicAlert + Safe Return program comes with a personalized ID bracelet that would have your husband’s medical information engraved on it, along with his membership number and the toll-free MedicAlert emergency phone number.
If he goes missing, you would first call 911 and report it to the local police department, and then report it to MedicAlert. Or a Good Samaritan or police officer may find him and call the MedicAlert number to get him back home.
The Vitals Aware Service works a bit differently. This is a free app-based network system that comes with a small beacon that your husband would wear. If he did go missing, anyone in the Vitals app network community that came within 80 feet of him would receive an alert and information about him so they could contact you.
Currently, this service is available in Minnesota, Ohio and North Carolina, but is looking to expand nationwide.
An option that could help many in this area now is a radio frequency locater service called Project Lifesaver, which is offered by police departments in Montgomery County, Maryland, and Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia.
With this service, your husband would wear a wristband that contains a radio transmitter that emits tracking signals. If he goes missing, contact the local authorities, who will use their tracking equipment to locate him.
Visit Projectlifesaver.org to learn when this service becomes available in other communities.
A local company, BlueStar SeniorTech, also offers a variety of products with monitoring. See bluestarseniortech.com to learn more.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of The Savvy Senior book.