Finding the lost dementia patient


Can GPS tracking devices be used as an inexpensive way to achieve real time tracking for finding lost dementia patients? Should it? There is debate over whether it’s just a quick fix strategy or whether it actually provides a vital service reducing the risk of harm to people with dementia.

Reduces cost and lower risk of injury

Rupert McShane, a consultant in old age psychiatry at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, supports the idea. He says patents can be found faster and quick recovery lowers risk. Approximately 50o% of dementia patients who are not found in 24 hours are severely hurt or die. Caretakers often don’t call the police hoping the situation will resolve itself without intervention from authorities. Also, risk of admission to a care home increases two-fold when a person with dementia is lost. “It is therefore surprising that there has not been more attention paid to ways of reducing this,” McShane underscored.

There are moral challenges: being lost vs. having privacy

“The evidence that patients are given more freedom once they start using a tracker is contradictory, but the finding that the device can reduce conflict between patient and carer is plausible and useful,” stated McShane. It is possible to balance safety and autonomy.

Cheaper, more sensitive ways to achieve the same result

Still, Desmond O’Neill, a professor of geriatric medicine at Trinity College Dublin, thinks care needs to be patient centered and the people with dementia need to be included in the conversation. He also believes that other technologies may be enough to aid a dementia patient in distress or a caregiver trying to locate them. In fact, he supports standard medical ID bracelets as a cheaper way to provide the same service.

Policies to keep people safe and support effective

Ultimately, the question of using a tagging system comes down to O’Neill’s fundamental question: “Is the impetus for shaping policy for a complex and common syndrome to be driven by policing, putative cost effectiveness, and ethical insensitivity, or can we use this debate to reclaim a person centered approach that embraces the person with dementia as the lead collaborator in a coalition of care?”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, British Medical Journal

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