Having a Dad with Pick’s disease my eye was caught this morning by a headline from the BBC, charity supports dementia tagging, which reports the news that the Alzheimer’s society has given its approval to the use of electronic tagging of dementia sufferers.
I knew why instantly without reading the article – my Dad used to wander around himself and with him being a bit of a rambler he was more inclined to do so.
The idea itself sounds to me like a good one. If sufferers walk off it can be hard to track them down. We gave my Dad a cheap mobile phone so that we could call him to find out where he was. However, more often than not he’d forget it or switch it off. Even then, he rarely realised his pocket was ringing and would probably have trouble answering it despite how easy we tried to make it. In that situation a tag would have allowed us to even use a mobile phone to find out where he is and pick up him. I remember one morning, driving around our village looking for him because he’d gone out when he was supposed to be at home waiting to be picked up for his visit to the day centre.
There is another big concern though. The normal dangers of everyday life, such as traffic, are magnified with dementia sufferers. One particular example that comes to mind is the time my Dad stepped out in front of a moving car because he recognised the driver. She had to break suddenly to avoid hitting him. My Dad was completely oblivious to the danger of doing something like that, such was the effect of the disease. A tag would do nothing to allay fears of similar or more disasterous events taking place.
An idea did come to my mind though. A tagging system could work very well in a ‘controlled community’ – a sort of cross between a care home and sheltered housing. With care homes, patients are very restricted in their movements. Using tags could allow patients to wander more within a larger space whilst close enough to supervision to enable the level of care needed. In a such a place, technology such as RFID could be used instead of GPS, tracking movement in and out of individual rooms and proximity to the perimeter of the ‘community’.