GPS tracker helping families of Alzheimer's patients

Posted at 9:41 AM, Jun 06, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-06 17:38:53-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Local Alzheimer's disease patients are participating in a pilot program to see if GPS tracking devices are helpful if a patient gets lost or wanders away from home.

More than 65,000 people in San Diego County have Alzheimer's or some form of dementia. Of that number, six out of every 10 will wander at some point.

One of those in the pilot program is Thomas Shaw. His wife, Lynn, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's last year, unusual because she is only in her 50s.

"For someone who is relatively young, you don't expect Alzheimer's disease or dementia. If she'd been 80, 85, that might have been the first thing we suspected," Shaw said.

For Shaw, allowing his wife the independence of leaving home on her own is critical to her well-being.

"I don't want her to feel like she's locked in the house. I can't do that," he said.

He worries about her safety when she's away from home, and the GPS tracker gives him some piece of mind.

Alzheimer's San Diego received a $10,000 grant from the county for the program. Patients receive the GPS device and app for free, along with the first three months of the program. After that, the service costs $20-$35 each month, depending on the plan. The device has other uses as well, including an emergency button which calls a service center for help.

So far, about 100 people have signed up to be part of the program, with 25 more devices available to be handed out. Alzheimer's San Diego is still evaluating the results from the users and is not sure if they will seek more funding to purchase more trackers once the current stock is gone.

For more information or to apply, contact Alzheimer's San Diego at 858.492.4400 or