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My father was diagnosed with dementia (which is most likely Alzheimer's) a little over two years ago. This is the only time I can honestly say I'm glad he also has Parkinson's, as it means he is physically incapable of wandering off and getting lost (I'm choosing to ignore the larger implications that has for his expected life span). But it is one of the things that frightens me the most: getting a call that my dad is missing, and no one knows where he could be. You see it on the news pretty regularly, and it's a nightmare I don't even want to think about.

Researchers at Scandinavia’s largest research organization, SINTEFF, have been developing a prototype GPS application to track dementia sufferers whether they have been institutionalized or still live at home. This is not just for the benefit of the families, although that seems to me like a huge part of it since that's my point of view, but it also gives the patients themselves a greater feeling of freedom and security, knowing that if they do happen to get confused and wander off, help won't be far away. I love that.

The app works like most GPS apps you've used, where it constantly tracks the location of the person it's attached to. But it also features an alarm system to alert either staff at a care facility or relatives or whoever needs to know that the patient has gone somewhere they probably shouldn't. Of course, some concerns about privacy have come up, but those are easily dealt with in that most people involved in testing the project feel the security and peace of mind far outweighs the worry that someone will know where the patient is at all times. And right now, the system is voluntary, although they are looking into a system where doctors give patients a tracking device even if they don't want one.

This is still in the testing phase, and many features are being worked on that will allow customization and improve the alert system. But this is one I'm definitely going to keep an eye on. Because every time I see on TV that another person is missing and presumed to have wandered off, I think of my dad. And how devastating it would be if he were one of the unlucky ones who wasn't found in time.

Source: Gizmag