Sun, Apr 01, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Group wants GPS device for Alzheimer’s sufferers

DISORIENTED:Large numbers of seniors are suffering from Alzheimer’s and often get lost, so a local NGO wants the government to subsidize locator devices

Staff writer, with CNA

A group that works to promote the welfare of Alzheimer’s disease sufferers yesterday urged the government to subsidize global positioning system (GPS) tracking devices for individuals suffering from the disorder that causes dementia.

The Taiwan Alzheimer’s Disease Association said equipping sufferers with the device would prevent them from wandering the streets and enable family members to find them easily.

“A GPS locator is just too expensive for an average family to afford,” said Tang Li-yu (湯麗玉), secretary-general of the association.

The service would likely include a NT$6,000 (US$188) cellphone-like tracking device with a monthly maintenance fee of NT$600, according to a local provider.

Tang’s organization has been lobbying the Ministry of the Interior to share the cost with patients’ families for years, but to no avail.

However, Tang admits that even though the GPS device would be handy, there are cheaper alternatives to helping dementia patients find their way home.

Cheaper methods include having patients’ fingerprints taken at a police station, patients wearing bracelets with their home address or a family member’s contact details on it, stitching names on personal belongings and putting name cards in bags.

In case people encounter confused or lost elderly people in the street, these provide useful ways for them to identify sufferers so they can help them find their way home, Tang said.

“The best bet would be to apply all of the means above to ensure efficiency,” she said.

As of the end of last year, there were 35,783 reported cases of dementia in Taiwan, most of them people 65 years or older. Numbers continue to increase steadily, according to government statistics.

“As much as we would like to have senior patients use GPS, it’s just too costly,” said Yu Fang-ling (俞芳苓), a public relations officer at Saint Mary’s Hospital in Luodong (羅東).

Yu’s hospital received 20 free GPS devices from Taiwan Secom Company, a local provider, several years ago and has been distributing and redistributing them to elders living alone and those with chronic ailments.

However, the company’s spokesman, Max Chu, said the market for elderly people using GPS devices is not as large as the company had expected.

Well-off families prefer to hire a caregiver to follow their loved ones around, whereas other families may keep dementia patients at home at all times, he said.

There are only about 3,000 clients, including children and the elderly, using a GPS locator in Taiwan, he added.

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