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Debate rages on GPS trackers for dementia patients

by GPS4US 2013-06-27 18:40
Installing GPS trackers on dementia patients may lower the cost of finding them when they go missing, but experts disagree on whether the tactic actually reduces harm or simply offers caretakers a short-term solution to the problem, according to a report on, which sites a British Medical Journal study.

When found quickly, risk in lost patients is greatly reduced. The report says that 50 percent of dementia patients missing for more than 24 hours suffer severe injuries or death. However, in many cases, caretakers wait to call authorities in an effort to find the patient themselves.

Indeed, GPS trackers offer patients more privacy and freedom while giving their caretakers solid data on their whereabouts and activities. Further, GPS trackers can reduce conflict between caretakers and patients, Rupert McShane, a consultant in old age psychiatry at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust said.

However, one expert argues that GPS trackers may give caretakers a false sense of security.

Desmond O’Neill, professor of geriatric medicine at Dublin’s Trinity College insists care needs should center around the patient instead of the caretaker.

GPS tracking “has generally been researched among formal and informal careers only, with the views of those with dementia relegated to the sidelines,” O’Neill said.

According to a study by the RAND corporation, dementia care costs up to $157 billion per year in the United States. GPS tracking may help lower those costs by reducing the need for constant care.

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