Alzheimer's / Dementia

8/21/2020 | By Seniors Guide Staff

Every once in a while, we hear a story in the news about a dementia-afflicted patient who has wandered away from a senior living facility, or even from their own home where they live with a family member or friend.


That is, in fact, the technical term: “wandering.” It has its own term because it happens so often – trying to “go home” or “go to work” is one of the standard behaviors of many people with dementia.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, six in 10 people with dementia – whether caused by Alzheimer’s or some other condition – will wander. They become easily disoriented, even when they are in their own home. This particularly happens in the evening, when “sundowning” occurs – the more tired they get, the more easily confused they may become.

There are many steps a caregiver can take to help reduce the risks of wandering, such as creating a daily routine; avoiding places with crowds of people, like grocery stores; and placing signal devices on the doors and windows of a home to send an alert when opened.

But even with all the care taken to ensure that someone doesn’t wander, it can still happen. A single moment’s carelessness or inattention is all it takes.

But thanks to GPS technology, the location of a wanderer can be ascertained quickly.

What Is GPS?

Most people know how to use the GPS in their car, without thinking very much about its logistics. They punch an address into their GPS device, and it somehow knows where their car is and can figure out the route to where they want to go.

The GPS knows where the car is because of its tracking device. Overhead satellites that are part of the GPS system hone in on that tracking device. 

The same system is used by people with smartphones; there’s a receiver inside the phone with which the GPS satellite can communicate.

In turn, this technology can be used to track someone with dementia so that their caregiver can know where they are at all times.

GPS Tracker for Dementia

There are many different brands of wearable tracking devices for seniors. Caregivers must do the research themselves to find the device that provides the most appropriate services for the senior in their care.

The one caveat is that the individual must have the GPS receiver somewhere on their person.

Most devices are wearable as a pendant or necklace. Some tracking devices can be placed in the senior’s shoe, or attached directly to clothing. Caregivers just need to ensure that the senior always wears the shoes or clothing with the tracking device.

Features Offered by GPS Tracking Devices

Below are features offered by GPS tracking devices. Not all tracking devices offer the same services. That’s why you need to do research before deciding which device to acquire for the senior with dementia.

Typically, the more expensive a device (the cost of the device and the cost of a monthly service) the more features it offers.

One thing to consider is that the more options a device has, the larger it will have to be; the wearer will, therefore, have to be able to know how to operate its functions. Typically, a pendant will have only a locator and an emergency call button. A wrist GPS tracker for dementia, meanwhile, like a watch, will have all sorts of auxiliary functions available.


The receiver inside the device that allows the wearer to be found. The device may be equipped not only with GPS, but also with other features such as A-GPS (augmented GPS) and Wi-Fi. This is a belts and braces approach to ensure that if the wearer can’t be found using one system for some reason, they can be found with the other.

Emergency Call Button

When pressed, the button makes a phone call to a number set up by the user. The call can go to a monitoring center, which is manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; a caretaker; or a family member.

Reminder Alerts

Depending on the stage of dementia, the wearer of the device can program reminders. These may include brushing teeth, eating meals, or performing other tasks.


A microphone, which can be turned on remotely, allows the caregiver or family member to listen in on the noises or voices that surround the user at any given time (even if the user can’t actually hear them).

Remember, it only takes a moment’s inattention for a wanderer to slip out of his or her home. By ensuring they are equipped with a GPS tracker for dementia, you ensure their safety and your peace of mind.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff