Caring for a loved one who has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is a heavy responsibility. Because people with these conditions have a tendency to wander, it can be easy for them to get lost when they can’t find their way back home. And that’s why Andrew Carle, a consultant on senior housing issues and an assistant professor at George Mason University, teamed up with Patrick Bertagna of GTX Corp. to develop a GPS tracking-enabled shoe for senior citizens.
Why GPS Tracking is Great for Senior Citizens
GPS tracking devices have been suggested as solutions to many difficulties faced by elderly people. They’ve been used in all of the following situations:
- Personal Safety—An elderly person who lives alone can carry or wear a GPS tracking device so others can easily help him in case of an emergency. For instance, if someone falls and gets injured, he or she can press an alert button to notify a family member or, for some device models, an emergency services responder.
- Location Monitoring—In the case of dementia or Alzheimer patients, GPS tracking can be extremely helpful for caregivers. It can keep track of a person’s daily movements and let the caregiver know if the person is doing something out of the ordinary.
- Locating Missing Persons—Thousands of elderly people wander away from home every day, presenting many safety risks. A GPS tracking device will quickly pinpoint their location, increasing safety and reducing risk of injury or death.
A GPS tracking device can easily be worn on a cord around the neck, tucked into a pocket, or worn like a wristwatch. Family members and caregivers can set up alerts to be notified if the wearer crosses a boundary. For instance, if the elderly person leaves his neighborhood or crosses a specific street, the device will send an alert to the caregiver’s phone, letting him or her know the person is in need of assistance.
What’s Special About GPS Shoes?
While GPS tracking devices have been around for a while, it’s not always easy to get a patient with dementia or Alzheimer’s to wear one. These patients have a tendency to like routine, to become suspicious of anything out of the ordinary, and to resist wearing items they aren’t accustomed to. They might refuse to wear a GPS bracelet or necklace, leave a handheld device at home, or forget to put on a wristwatch.
In 2011, Andrew Carle, in conjunction with GTX, introduced the GPS tracking-enabled shoe. As a wardrobe essential people are used to wearing every day, the shoe made it easy to equip an elderly person with a tracking device. They’re less likely to forget it or to resist wearing it because it’s embedded in the sole of the shoe.
Now, Carle and GTX are planning to introduce a new twist on the shoe concept. They’ve developed a GPS-enabled insole that can be transferred from shoe to shoe. Users can continue wearing the shoes they’re accustomed to, simply by sliding the product in and out of the shoe.
What Impact Will GPS Shoes Have?
Carle hopes that his products will make a profound difference in the elderly care and search-and-rescue arenas. He envisions his GPS shoes making a difference for many diverse groups, including:
|Veterans||Those with traumatic brain injuries sustained during wartime|
|Autistic Groups||Monitoring individuals with autism|
|Medical groups||Monitoring transplant organs|
|Law enforcement||Assisting with search-and-rescue operations|
For each of these groups, GPS-enabled shoes could make a significant difference in the way day-to-day issues can be handled. Carle hopes that his shoes will be widely implemented in order to offer assistance to caregivers and law enforcement officers as well as provide increased safety for patients and wearers.
Are There Any Concerns?
Some have expressed concerns about the possibility of widespread implementation. The cost of the shoes won’t be something to sneeze at. At $299.00 per pair plus the cost of cell service, not everyone will be able to afford equipping loved ones with the devices just yet. In addition, the GPS device will need to be charged daily. Some police departments currently use a radio tracking device to monitor elderly citizens. As part of that program, an officer will stop by regularly to change the batteries in the device. But a daily visit may not be possible.
However, Carle hopes the benefits of the shoes will outweigh the potential concerns. The shoes provide greater accuracy than radio tracking programs, it’s friendlier to Alzheimer and dementia patients, and it doesn’t require police monitoring. In addition, the shoes can be programmed to text a caregiver when the wearer crosses a boundary and can text a map of the wearer’s location when requested.
Many caregivers who work with elderly patients are excited about the potential of the GPS tracking-enabled shoes. If they can save lives and protect from injury, they are well worth the cost.