Now tracking dementia patients is as easy as GPS

Peace of mind:Jim Seeto can maintain contact with wife Ann through her Safe2Walk device. Picture:Tony Gough
Source: Herald Sun

FAMILIES of people with dementia can track their movements from a computer –and even set perimeters as to where they walk –using a new personal security system to be launched in Victoria this week.

The Safe2Walk device,designed by Alzheimer’s Australia,is billed as helping those in the early stages of dementia maintain their independence for longer,while reducing the burden of missing person searches for police.

The mobile phone-sized device,worn on a lanyard around the neck or clipped to a belt,has one button the wearer can press when they are in trouble or lost,sending their last-known position to carers as a “panic alert”via SMS and email.

The device,which is programmed with the phone numbers of three main carers,diverts to subsequent numbers after six rings if not picked up. Concerned carers can also call the device if they fear their loved one is in trouble.

Jim Seeto said Safe2Walk –which is rented for about $2 a day –had allowed him to continue caring for his wife Ann at home.

“In the early stages they do get lost and get confused,”he said.

“She could still go walking to the shops,the park or the beach and if she ran into someone and was half an hour late I could log on and see that she was on her way home. It meant she could keep her independence while I had peace of mind.”

Alzheimer’s Australia’s Western Australia research manager Jason Burton said the device aimed to stop vulnerable people getting lost,with research showing about 40 per cent of people with dementia went missing at least once.

“In 99 per cent of cases the carer has gone to pick them up,but there was one case where they couldn’t and the police were able to contact us to get the exact GPS location of this person to rescue them,”Mr Burton said.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said while it could not endorse a specific product,if the device could alert carers when a person with dementia first became disorientated,the response could help avoid a large-scale police search.

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