UK charity backs tags for dementia sufferers
Keeping tabs on granny
The UK's Alzheimer's Society has backed the electronic tagging of dementia sufferers to "empower patients by allowing them to wander", the Telegraph reports.
The charity says that many of Britain's 700,000 victims of dementia "feel compelled" to go walkabout - 60 per cent "may wander" and 40 per cent "have got lost at some point", it claims. The ability to track them would allow them the freedom to "roam around their communities" without causing their families unnecessary worry, according to science minister Malcolm Wicks.
Wicks first made the proposal back in April, when he said: "Let's use satellites and satellite technology to tackle some real important social issues that worry many families." He mooted two possible alternatives: RFID tagging which would trigger an alarm if the wearer wandered out of range of a base station; or full-blown GPS tracking.
Neil Hunt, the Alzheimer's Society's chief exec has agreed the tech "could offer benefits to people with dementia and their carers". He did, however, stress: "There is a careful balance to strike between empowering people and restricting their movement and this technology can certainly never be used as an alternative for high quality dementia care."
Dr Richard Nicholson, editor of the Bulletin of Medical Ethics, highlighted the potential for misuse of tracking, telling Radio 5 Live: "The problem with this is that you could see second-class care - using it as a way of making life easier for carers rather than as a way of making life safer or more pleasant for the person with Alzheimer's."
He described the proposal as "not something that ought to go ahead without parliamentary debate and possibly even legislation".
The Alzheimer's Society concluded that "decisions about whether to use a tracking device should be made in conjunction with the person with the disease in the earlier stages of dementia". ®
Sounds reasonable, but....
..... as Dr Richard Nicholson said, this could also introduce caring by numbers, and that sounds distinctly creepy to me. My Great Grandmother battled dementia for many years before succumbing at the grand old age of 94, but she received excellent personal care and that was a massive boost to her fight. Tags could remove much of the contact such sufferers receive and in spite of the positive side of the idea it needs a proper look to avoid possible pitfalls.
How long until Google Maps will show the positions of wandering dementia patients live? All these little pointy arrows, doddering around as you check the traffic...
GPS = Granny Positioning System?