The Role of GPS Technology in Dementia

We tend to be concerned about treatments and research into dementia, but what about the daily care of people who live with the disease every day?

Preventing Institutionalization:

gps dementia
One of the great risks that comes with dementia is that people tend to become confused and disoriented at unpredictable times. They could be out for a walk and suddenly have no idea where they are. This can be extremely risky to not only the person with dementia but to other people. The person may walk into traffic or otherwise cause harm to others. People deemed to be very risky tend to be institutionalized for their safety, and the safety of others. But what if there was a way to prevent, or at least delay, the necessity of institutionalization?

Researchers in Alberta are testing out various GPS technologies to help dementia patients from wandering off when they get confused.

How does it work?

Researchers are trying out several methods. The first is putting GPS trackers into the soles of their shoes, and then if the person with dementia wanders beyond the pre-determined “allowable radius” for their typical walk, then their caretaker will get a text telling them where they are and how fast they are moving.

One promising technology they are experimenting with is a two-way communication watch. This means that, if the person with dementia steps out of range, his or her caretaker will be alerted and be able to talk to them instantly. They can instantly tell them to stay where they are until the caretaker can come and retrieve them.


There are of course limits to how effective this technology can be. What if the person doesn’t put on his or her shoes before wandering off into the night? What if they get hit by a car by the time his or her caretaker comes to get them?