Dementia care is given GPS boost

Dementia sufferers in the Capital are being given GPS trackers to stop them wandering off and getting lost.

The ground-breaking scheme being run by the city council sees people who are being cared for at home given devices which can be worn on the wrist or carried in their pockets.

If the carrier strays outside an agreed area, an alarm is sent to a call centre, which then contacts the person’s carers.

The device can also be tracked online, so that if the person carrying it gets lost, they can be found quickly.

The Safe Walking service has been trialled with two women in their 70s, both living in north Edinburgh, and is now ready to be offered to others.

One of the couples who have been given the device said it would offer peace of mind to them both.

The dementia sufferer was diagnosed three and a half years ago, remains well enough to live at home, and until recently, enjoyed taking regular short walks nearby.

But in September she got lost and was gone for three hours while police searched for her.

Her husband said: “She’s wandered a wee bit before, but not far. But she went out in the evening at 9pm – it was still light at that time. I was a wee bit apprehensive but thought ‘She’ll be back’. But at 10 o’clock she wasn’t back and I then phoned the police.

“She’d gone as far as Silverknowes and then she knocked on somebody’s door and fortunately had remembered our phone number. It was pretty scary.”

Since getting lost, she has been too nervous to go out alone, but her husband hopes that the new device will give her the confidence to start again. “I want her to have that little bit of independence and to go out whenever she’s ready.”

The second user is a 78-year-old woman who has had dementia for two years. Her daughter, 47, said: “Many people think that when dementia affects someone they have to go into a care home, that’s not the case. This system gives people extra time with their families.

“I have more security because I know exactly where my mum is in the safe zone. If she goes out of the safe zone then I am alerted by the contact centre and can find her.”

It follows on from a similar scheme which has seen pupils with special needs taught to use GPS technology to help them travel on their own to school.

City health leader Paul Edie said he was delighted to see the use of GPS extended to those with dementia:

“There are people that have low-level dementia that we want to support and give assistance to. It’s about keeping people as independent as they can be for as long as they can.”