Senior man hiking looks at his GPS tracker on his smartphone.

GPS Tracking for Seniors With Dementia

Last updated on July 14, 2023

If your senior loved one shows signs of memory loss or has dementia, the thought of them getting lost or “wandering” is a major concern. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, six out of 10 people with dementia will wander at least once — and some will do so repeatedly.

While you cannot eliminate the risk of your senior wandering or getting lost, there are technologies—like GPS trackers for seniors—that have emerged as possible solutions. These gadgets can help your loved one maintain their independence while allowing you to monitor their location, activity, and safety.

What Are GPS Trackers for Seniors?

GPS trackers for seniors are small, discrete devices attached to your loved one’s clothing, belongings, or accessories that can accurately track and monitor their whereabouts in real time on a map. Similar to GPS apps on your phone or in your car, the tracking devices coordinate with satellites to pinpoint your senior’s precise location at all times.

GPS trackers can also send you timely alerts if your loved one strays or wanders from their home, a predefined boundary, or “safe zone.” Some are equipped with emergency buttons for your senior to press if they become lost or need help.

What Types of GPS Trackers Are Available for Seniors?

Smartphones with GPS capabilities are popular and can help you find an older adult who is lost. However, the technology is only helpful if your elderly loved one has a smartphone physically with them and it is properly configured to allow for tracking capabilities.

Today’s GPS tracking technology goes beyond smartphones and offers numerous options for seniors and family members. Options include:

  • Wristband alarm systems
    These systems include a wristband worn by your senior that sends an alert signal whenever your senior leaves a pre-specified “safety zone.” Some of these alarm systems require enrollment through a local public safety agency and allow you or a caregiver to alert first responders if your senior becomes lost or has a sudden fall.
  • Smartwatches
    A smartwatch is an ideal GPS-tracking solution if your loved one is accustomed to wearing a watch. Most smartwatches allow you to pair it with an app on your phone to track your senior’s movement remotely. Additionally, smartwatches may provide other valuable health data, including heart rate, sleep habits, and activity levels.
  • Wearables and “attachables
    If your senior cannot tolerate wearing a watch or wristband, other systems are available that can be secured to clothing or shoes, attached to a keychain, or stored in a pocket or handbag. These devices can be synced to a smartphone app that provides real-time mapping and may include other features such as two-way voice capabilities, boundary alerts, panic buttons, and more.

What Should I Consider When Researching GPS Tracking Devices?

When researching GPS tracking systems for your senior, consider the following factors when deciding which system is the best fit:

  • Cost
    In addition to the cost of the system, don’t forget to include activation and subscription fees to determine the system’s total overall cost.
  • Range
    Considering where your senior travels can determine whether you need local, regional, national, or worldwide coverage. You should also consider if the system allows you to set boundaries and receive alerts when the perimeter is breached.
  • Alerts
    Some systems offer text and email alerts, while others use an app-based alert system. You should decide whether the types of alerts, such as battery, speed, movement, and boundary alerts, will meet your loved one’s needs.
  • Data access
    Although most systems use satellite connections to determine your loved one’s location, some may require cellular or internet service to access the app or utilize the tracking device.

A Professional Caregiver is Another Option

Although choosing a GPS tracking system for your loved one can help improve their safety and provide you peace of mind, having a professional caregiver by your loved one’s side can dramatically reduce their chances of wandering or getting lost.

If your loved one needs dementia care or is showing signs of memory problems, contact your nearest Visiting Angels to learn more about personalized in-home support.

If you're interested in our compassionate home care services for you or a loved one, contact your nearest Visiting Angels home care agency today or call 800-365-4189.
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