GPS device to free dementia sufferers

A personal tracking device has been developed enabling Dementia sufferers more freedom while allowing their carers to know their whereabouts at all times.

The device, developed in Australia, is a waterproof global positioning system (GPS) global system for mobile communication (GSM) device that can be worn securely by the patient.

It also uses a Symbian Operating System (SOS), adjustable boundary alert technology and microphone, and requires mobile reception for the patient to be located quickly (in less than one minute) for the cost of a standard SMS message.

Lifehacker founder, Fiona Rymer, said with the ageing population in Australia, the incidence of dementia and dementia-related wandering had increased.

“Dementia-related wandering is stressful to carers and locating the missing person can be costly personally and financially for the carer and the community,” Rymer said in a statement.

“This issue is so prevalent that many carers know their local policeman on a first name basis. Carers mention times when helicopters have been used to locate their spouse who has dementia or their child who has autism.

"If they had been wearing a Lifetracker then the carer could have just sent an SMS to locate them within metres, within minutes.”

The boundary alert functions enables the carer to set a boundary for the patient which will then send the carer a message should the boundary be crossed, reducing the number of people that go missing.

“The major benefit of Boundary Alert is that people suffering from dementia can more readily be cared for in low-care facilities or at home,” she said.

“The cost of replacing family carers with paid carers is estimated at $5.5 billion per annum and that's just the tip of the iceberg.”

Lifehacker is not the first tracking device used for patients with Dementia, with the Alzheimer's Association in 2009 developing a Web-based application to work with a number of mobile devices to track people who may wander off at some point during their illness.

The association’s Comfort Zone service is powered by Omnilink tracking services. It uses its FocalPoint tracking software and relies on GPS to find almost any location-enabled tracking device, which can then be used to monitor the location of an individual.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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