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Devices to Find Senior with Dementia Who Wanders: Modern Technology Helps Locate Missing Person with Alzheimer’s

Devices to Find Senior with Dementia Who Wanders: Modern Technology Helps Locate Missing Person with Alzheimer’s


According to a dbs Productions online article entitled “Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders SAR Research: Wandering Overview,” over 125,000 people with Alzheimer’s disease wander away from home each year in America. The wandering, or elopement, may be goal-directed, in which the person is seeking something or someone, or it may be random wandering, in which the person does not seem to have an apparent goal. According to the above article, a high percentage of wandering cases may result in severe or life-threatening consequences.

Technology may be able to provide someone with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, greater autonomy while giving loved ones and caregivers added peace of mind. Many different types of services and devices are available today in order to assist people to find someone who has wandered away from a safe area. These may be as simple as a buddy system or might include local and national networks. Tracking devices are now available to assist in search efforts as well.

Buddy System May Help People with Dementia

A buddy system can help prevent wandering because another person contacts the person with dementia on a daily basis. That buddy might be a family member, neighbor, caregiver, or someone through a local community program. This person might plan to go with the person on any trips away from home, which could help ensure the elder’s safety as well as decrease the likelihood of wandering.

The buddy might also be able to pick up on cues that the person with Alzheimer’s may be at risk for wandering. For example, the buddy might be told of plans to leave the area or may pick up on a sudden increase in confusion. A buddy might also discover that the elder is missing sooner, which could aid in recovery efforts.

Up-to-date Records May Assist in Locating Wandering Elder

Having a current color photograph, physical description, medical and health information, vehicle information, and other vital information could help others to locate a missing person with dementia.

Some or all of this information might be stored:

  • on papers at home
  • on a CD or other storage media
  • in a computer hard drive or web site
  • on a piece of jewelry like a necklace or bracelet, in a wallet, on a keychain, etc. such as with MedicAlert
  • on a USB flash drive, or memory stick, that might be worn around the neck, wrist, on a shoe or keychain, etc. with examples like Medical Facts on Board and MedTag, and MedMemory

This information can be sent to local and other authorities to assist in search efforts. Family members, caregivers, and community-based programs such as the National Silver Alert Program and MedicAlert + Safe Return may mobilize additional resources to aid in recovery efforts.

Modern Technology May Help Recover Someone with Dementia Who Wanders

Modern technology has opened new possibilities in assisting with recovery efforts when someone with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia wanders away from home. Project Lifesaver is a not-for-profit agency that offers personal locator units to place on someone with Alzheimer’s with an average rescue time of less than 30 minutes. EmFinders EMSeeQ offers a watch-type device that utilizes cellular network technology and is integrated with the national 9-1-1 system. Comfort Zone is a location-based mapping service that works similar to a car GPS system in which the caregiver or family member can set computer alerts about the elder’s location as often as every 15 minutes. LoJack SafetyNet uses a dedicated radio frequency emitted by a waterproof device worn on the wrist or ankle.

No plan or device is 100% certain to successfully recover a missing person quickly and without injury. Recovery efforts may depend on many things, such as:

  • someone noticing that the person is missing
  • whether or not the elder is wearing a tracking device and the type of device worn
  • how recently identifying information has been updated
  • environmental conditions
  • health status of the missing person
  • availability of computer access
  • cellular phone service in the area
  • how densely populated the area is

Options and Devices to Assist with Search Efforts if Someone with AD Wanders

Wandering is common among people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Although many things can be done to help prevent wandering, sometimes a person with dementia will still wander despite those efforts. This can lead to injury and perhaps death due to a fall, motor vehicular accident, exposure, dehydration, or other conditions. Caregivers and family members can plan ahead by utilizing appropriate resources, such as a buddy system, updating and saving important records, and considering tracking devices as needed.

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