Check out this video from CNET introducing us to shoes that use GPS tracking technology.  These sneakers are designed to help Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers maintain their independence by providing a tracking mechanism, should they wander off.

Not long before we made the decision to move mom out of her house, we had several issues with her “going for a walk” and actually wandering off, unable to find her way home.  Believe me, getting a phone call telling you that your mother’s neighbor found her walking along a busy street at rush hour is more than slightly disconcerting.

Even after we moved her to a large, private pay AL facility, there were some frightening moments.  She wore an ankle transmitter that would set off an alarm if she walked out of the building; however, due to the device malfunctioning or, as we later found, sheer negligence, this system was far from foolproof.  Despite this safeguard, she did have at least two serious elopement issues.  Both times, she was found down the street – once on a very cold night (after dark) in an area with no sidewalks.  She was actually spotted by a neighbor, who was concerned when he saw a woman, appearing to be confused, walking in the middle of the street. Thankfully, the good samaritan took her to his house and called the police.

The second incident was similar, but she headed in a different direction and was found at a very busy intersection.  Again, she was fortunately rescued by a concerned onlooker and safely returned to the AL facility.

Wandering is such a frightening issue, and elopement is a real concern in the large facilities where the staff-to-resident ratio is unimaginable.  We were so thankful to have a happy ending both times, but these are just examples of what can happen – even in a $5k / month private pay assisted living facility.

The Aetrex GPS tracking shoes could definitely be a blessing under the right circumstances.  Of course, there would be a couple of obvious issues.  They require charging, and they do have to be worn in order to serve their purpose.  That sounds like a small thing, but if you’ve dealt with someone suffering from ALZ, you know that even following simple directions can be impossible for them.  I do think in the right situation, they could provide some peace of mind for caregivers, and you can’t put a price tag on that.

On a similar note, if you know someone dealing with these issues, please make sure they are aware of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return program in conjunction with MedicAlert.  For a small fee, this can truly be a life saver….

Striking a balance between allowing independence and assuring safety can be extremely challenging.  The more aids and tools you have at hand, the more likely it is that your loved one will remain happy and safe.

Until next time… Carpe diem…