Nicole Haddow, WAToday.com.au
Katina Michael, University of Wollongong
Katina Michael, vice chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation says: ''The individual has the right to say no to something that they might perceive to invade their locational or bodily privacy. On the other hand, carers have a responsibility to keep their loved ones safe, as does the state its citizens.''
Michael argues the decision ''intimately affects the person's way of life'' and is not to be taken lightly.
Read more: http://www.watoday.com.au/lifestyle/keeping-tabs-on-dad-20130628-2p0or.html#ixzz2XxbIVnQG
Full article here:
Clever devices can provide peace of mind if a loved one is prone to wandering, writes Nicole Haddow.
When the helicopter circled David Tucceri's home as police searched for his missing father, Dominic, 82, the situation looked grim. Dominic, who has dementia, had left his home in Melbourne's Airport West for a walk at 10am and failed to return.
"He'd walked all the way into Flinders Street in the city," David recalls. His father eventually hailed a taxi and managed to find his way home.
"It was the final straw. We couldn't keep calling the police," David, 49, says.
That was 18 months ago. Instead of putting his father in a home, David bought a GPS tracking device and superglued it to the garage remote control - the remote is Dominic's only way to exit the house and so he never leaves without it.
"Today I've seen him go for two walks," David says from the school where he teaches. David uses Myionu software installed on his smartphone and laptop to keep an eye on his father. On this occasion, Dominic has stuck to his usual path. "Sometimes he has headed towards the freeway on-ramp and I've had to go and get him," David says.
It's a heart-stopping moment when a loved one, symbolised by GPS dot, wanders into oncoming traffic. But leaving his father to his own devices is preferable to locking the elderly man in their home all day.
"He's the happiest I've ever seen him and he's healthier. He sometimes walks seven kilometres a day."
Before using GPS tracking, David was considering quitting his job to care for his father full-time. The device has provided both of them with valuable freedom.
Dianne Murray, 67, from Woy Woy on the NSW central coast, fastens a small GPS device to her husband Francis' belt when they visit their local shops. "He has a tendency to wander. Once I lost him for 10 hours," she says.
Dianne knows Francis, 81, who has dementia, isn't thrilled about it, but understands it's to keep him safe.
"It takes a lot of worry off my mind," she says.
Dianne's device is from Brisbane-based supplier Claude Raiola at Tracking Central. Raiola says it is one of many devices he supplies to customers. These include his latest product, Navistar GPS shoes, which have tracking devices in the soles.
"The shoes are designed because you don't have to remember to put them on. A person with Alzheimer's is still able to get dressed and wear shoes," he says.
The sale of GPS tracking products has risen rapidly in the past few years as prices have dropped, making them - at about $300 - more accessible. Paul Delaney, general manager for AffinityOne Tracking Solutions predicts at least 30,000 tracking devices will be sold in Australia in the next two years and will soon be available at retail stores as opposed to specialty suppliers.
"Tracking is seen as negative, but it's a safety device," says Delaney, who works with people in many situations that have driven them to consider GPS tracking and parents who are keen to track their children. "It's less invasive than calling every hour asking where they are. They work with their teenager rather than spying."
It's not unusual for Delaney to field inquiries from people who want to track their spouses. While it's not illegal to track a minor, it is illegal to track a spouse.
"We actively do not get involved in spouse tracking," he says. "We make it very clear that's not what it's for."
There is no registration process for people in Australia selling GPS tracking devices and Delaney says he welcomes policing of the industry.
The moral and ethical questions around tracking of a loved one, or a stranger for that matter, are endless. Even if a family member does give you permission to track them, does that make it right?
Alzheimer's Australia says more than 40 per cent of people with dementia will get lost at some point. The organisation's research project Safe2Walk has been providing up to 40 Safe2Walk devices for lease in Victoria. But the program will close in coming months due to lack of funding. The devices were available through Alzheimer's Australia and were used primarily by families with a member in the initial stages of dementia. Tracking devices were leased for six months and families had the option to renew the lease depending on the person's deterioration.
While the research and development program, which has run for six years, had received philanthropic support from the Australian Unity Foundation, it's estimated that $100,000 would be required to roll out the system nationally and keep it operating.
Alzheimer's Australia's education research and consultancy general manager, Jason Burton, says while it is disappointing that Safe2Walk must end, the research and development that went into the program was world class. He says they have received positive feedback from families, and the benefits have outweighed issues of privacy.
But using GPS to track a loved one does not work in isolation, he warns. "It's quite a significant issue. We need to take more of a comprehensive approach nationally. GPS is part of the answer, but we need to look at how we support emergency services and how we make families aware of what works for them."
And, although the organisation will no longer supply devices to families, Burton encourages people caring for someone with dementia to phone the Alzheimer's Australia helpline. "We give advice about what works and what doesn't work - the products do vary," he says.
At this stage, Alzheimer's Australia suggests that families are better equipped to manage the devices than large health-care institutions.
Diana Fayle, dementia advocacy officer at Alzheimer's Australia says: "Some aged care facilities have leased units for residents. The concern is that someone must be responsible for making sure the device is charged and check when the resident goes out. In residential care facilities staff are busy. It's hard to get one person who's taking care of the device."
Despite this, Fayle believes there is a great deal of scope for the growth of GPS use in the care of ageing Australians who'd like to maintain independence.
"It's going to help people with dementia and their carers lead more independent lives," Fayle says.
While using technology to track people at risk is undeniably useful in the right hands, there is still little regulation and plenty of room for error.
"Something will have to go wrong before there's action," says professor Andrew Dempster, director of the Australian Centre of Space Engineering Research at the University of NSW. He says satellite technology is allowing swift advancements to the way we can patrol the movements of others and people are already "opting in" to promoting their locations using smartphones. But, he warns, it's far from perfect. Even if your child, parent or friend agrees to being tracked, it doesn't work properly indoors, isn't foolproof and is no replacement for traditional methods of care.
Dempster says the priority should be tightening privacy rules. And even when consented to, the notion of tracking for health purposes should still be carefully considered.
Katina Michael, vice chair of the Australian Privacy Foundation says: "The individual has the right to say no to something that they might perceive to invade their locational or bodily privacy. On the other hand, carers have a responsibility to keep their loved ones safe, as does the state its citizens."
Michael argues the decision "intimately affects the person's way of life" and is not to be taken lightly.
A watchful eye
"All she wanted to do was ride her bike," Marian Richardson, from Southern River in Perth, says.
She is referring to her 37-year-old intellectually disabled daughter, Dianne. The problem was that there was no way of knowing if she went the wrong way or got lost.
In the end Marian decided to track her daughter using a GPS system. The tracker is installed in a bear-shaped pendant which Dianne wears around her neck, nicknamed her care bear. It provides her with the freedom she would not otherwise enjoy.
Richardson has encouraged her daughter to stay on the bike path and call her on a two-way device if she gets into trouble, but there have been no emergencies so far.
For the hour or so Dianne gets out to exercise each day, Richardson tracks her movements on her iPad, refreshing the map regularly to check her daughter's whereabouts. "It gives her me-time, and it gives me peace of mind," she says.
Suggested Citation: Nicole Haddow and Katina Michael. "Keeping Tabs on Dad", WAtoday.com.au Jul. 2013.