Finding people with Alzheimer's disease who have wandered away from home (more than 60% of them do, according to the Alzheimer's Association) is one of caregiver's biggest concerns. A dizzying array of products is available to address the problem: door and window locks, motion alarms, GPS tracking devices and pendants, and medical ID bracelets. Now, a new product joins the list: GPS shoes.
The shoes, made by GTX Corporation and certified by the Federal Communications Commission, contain a GPS system in the heel that lets family members track the location of the wearer. Family members can establish a safe zone, so the elderly person can freely walk around the house or in the yard. But, if the senior wanders outside of that zone, the caregiver is alerted so they can check on the elder's whereabouts.
But can a pair of shoes really stop people with Alzheimer's disease from wandering away from home?
Dr. Andrew Carle, a professor at George Mason University's College of Health and Human Services, believes they can. "It's especially important for people in the earliest stages of Alzheimer's who are at the highest risk," Carle told Fox News. "They might be living in their home but they're confused. They go for a walk and they can get lost for days."
Whether or not the shoes will be effective must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, because non-compliance can inhibit the shoes' effectiveness. If a person wanders away without wearing shoes, the GPS tracking device is rendered useless. Tracking devices like bracelets and pendants can be ripped off when a person with Alzheimer's disease is in the mist of paranoia – a characteristic of later stage Alzheimer's. However, shoes are not so unfamiliar. When sufferers in the early stages of Alzheimer's decide to go for a walk, or to the grocery store, or even forget they are retired and try to go to work, they will likely put on shoes as part of the routine that they remember. When they become disoriented and can't find their way home, the GPS tracking device in the shoe enables the person to be located.
The GPS shoes are scheduled to hit store shelves later this month and will be available in sneaker and loafer styles. They also come with a hefty price tag of about $300 with a $30 to $40 monthly subscription fee. For caregivers who can afford it, the peace of mind the shoes provide might be worth the cost.