The feasibility of electronic tracking devices in dementia: a telephone survey and case series.
McShane R., Gedling K., Kenward B., Kenward R., Hope T., Jacoby R.
BACKGROUND: Patients with dementia who go out unaccompanied are at risk of accidents or getting lost. It is not known whether they could benefit from electronic tracking devices or whether such devices are practically feasible. METHOD: The likely demand for an electronic tracking device was assessed by means of a telephone survey of a convenience sample of 99 carers. The practical feasibility of a tracking system was assessed in 24 patients with dementia. RESULTS: The telephone survey suggested that 20% of patients were at continuing risk of traffic accidents and 45% were at continuing risk of getting lost. About 7% could have benefited from using the device at the time of survey and a further 11% could have benefited at an earlier point in their illness. In the feasibility study, only nine patients consistently used the device. In two patients, it was successfully used in a search. One patient was injured by a passing vehicle when he had got lost out of range of the device. A major barrier to using the device was recognizing the risk of getting lost before it happened. CONCLUSION: Significant numbers of patients are at risk. Electronic tracking devices may occasionally be useful in carefully selected cases.