Tracking people when they're gone - or noticing before they've left? I spent the weekend researching various technology offerings that might prevent an 87-year-old able-bodied person with dementia from wandering beyond a specified area in independent or assisted living campuses. I've looked into it -- and I have to say, I am disappointed -- the hype exceeds at least my research reality.That GPS shoe hyped in the press? I just called Foot.com -- it will be out now in the Spring, 2011. Geo-fencing devices like SentryGPS, Alzguard -- require placing a device in the pocket that is easily discarded into the trash by a wandering senior. LoJack, EmFinders, The Alzheimer's ComfortZone, etc. all help find a person who is already lost -- and require involvement of local police departments. And based on Internet searching of the 'geo-fencing' ideas, the websites and references indicate to me that they aren't that widely deployed.
Requiring total facility commitment or just enough for a person or two? In the around-forever category, there are a number of facility-oriented systems (search for WanderGuard and you'll find them) that I view as heavy-weight -- requiring electricians and resetting keypads, sending audible or beaming alarms, and in general advertising that this is a 'locked down' premise, something that independent living and assisted living communities do not wish to admit (unless they have a dementia unit on site that can be presented as a viable upgrade option.) Even the sensor-based systems installed on an apartment alert are based on exit from a resident's unit -- not a zone-based approach that works for a campus or yard area and that can be associated with one individual.
So offer up a few good options -- a watch or attractive bracelet that works. What I envision -- a working watch or other easily worn and not so easily noticed form factor that cannot be easily pulled off. I want one that alerts when it is removed, but that alert is easily reset when a person is accompanied out the door by a staff or family member. After looking at the various geo-fencing alternatives, I want the ability to design and adjust the zone easily, even online. And I want the ability to alert in multiple mediums, notifying several pre-identified people at once -- a caregiver, staff, or family. In contacting several senior housing executives, this lighter-weight strategy does not seem to be widely deployed.
But acknowledging that searching online for information may not be the best approach, let's ask. If you, a person or an organization you know well are using such a technology, please comment on this post or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.