As wearable tech permeates the market, how helpful are GPS bracelets for Alzheimer’s and dementia safety?
When Eric Rosenthal’s wife Eva was diagnosed with dementia, he began to search for technology that would help her and their family manage the condition.
“I quickly realized that for someone with dementia, a smartphone isn’t so smart,” Rosenthal told Being Patient. “Very early on, Eva would forget her code, didn’t know how to look up numbers and couldn’t even redial the last number. Then, she would lose her phone all the time, so between the complexity of the phone and finding the phone, I realized that the phone was not a solution for her.”
Many people rely on smartphones to power daily life, but that reliance becomes complicated when Alzheimer’s symptoms progress to a point that a person is less able to use once-familiar tech devices. Some people are used to tracking family members’ locations with apps like FindMy, but if someone forgets their phone, those apps become useless.
An Alzheimer’s medical ID bracelet equipped with information and possibly GPS tracking services, is one solution families are turning to to address some of these safety issues in order to help their loved ones live independently for longer.
GPS technology in an Alzheimer’s bracelet
People with Alzheimer’s are known to wander or get lost, and it’s a scary moment for caregivers when they can’t find the wandering individual.
In Japan, the government distributes free wearable QR codes for families and caregivers to use to locate people living with dementia in case of a wandering incident. When scanned, the QR codes show information like the person’s identification and their local city hall’s telephone number. The codes are made to be put onto bracelets or clothing. The barcodes were invented by Haruo Hidaka, who watched his own grandmother’s descent into Alzheimer’s.
So far, there aren’t any similar government initiatives in the U.S. to protect people living with Alzheimer’s. A bracelet or wristband designed with Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia in mind may offer a suitable stop-gap when it comes to location tracking.
How do I choose the right Alzheimer’s wearable tech?
Devices for GPS tracking include attachables, bracelets and wristbands, shoe inserts and more. When shopping, read the reviews and consider the following:
- Is the bracelet or wearable lightweight and comfortable?
- Is the interface easy to use?
- Does it need to be recharged frequently?
- Does it contain additional useful features?
Features of medical alert bracelets and other devices for Alzheimer’s and dementia aid
Alzheimer’s medical alert bracelets have different systems depending on the brand, and may come with different functions beyond just GPS location tracking. For example, these wearables might include:
- Medical ID: The ability to store medical information to let healthcare providers or authorities know of a person’s medical conditions.
- Help button: The most well-known types of medical alert devices have a button for seniors to call emergency services when they’ve fallen and need help.
- Fall sensor: Since Alzheimer’s patients can have falls in addition to getting lost and wandering, consider one with an action plan for falls.
- Perimeter alerts: A wandering or perimeter alarm can alert caretakers to when their loved one has left a certain area. Alert systems in the house can accomplish this same function.
As tech evolves, the options for Alzheimer’s identification and tracking wearables are evolving, too. Wearable devices that serve multiple purposes — such as a smart watch — may also facilitate fitness tracking, texts and phone calls, and other services on top of GPS location tracking and medical information. This might be a more appealing option for a person living with Alzheimer’s over a straight-up medical alert button or medical ID bracelet.