Primary carers of people who wander have a substantial onus to keep their loved ones and clients safe. Though patterns of wandering differ between various stakeholder types in various contexts, the two main design points include:
- Ensuring an individual does not go beyond the perimeters of a home (in-building) or a facility (on-campus)
- Ensuring an individual who has wandered can be found quickly (usually traversing a public space).
Wandering about a public space is one of the freedoms people enjoy about being alive. Whether it is a brisk walk to the local park, a bus or train trip to the beach, or aeroplane travel to various parts of the world, we can all enjoy the world around us. Walking does not require any token, travel often requires a ticket such as a TravelPass, and flying a passport with an appropriate VISA. People who wander usually do so on foot or by public transport. This session tries to narrow in to the potential for using RFID/NFC, facial recognition, and GPS to trigger mobile alerts when someone has wandered outside a minimum bounded area.
Children with autism for example, have often escaped their homes, only to find themselves in danger, either from oncoming traffic or from deep waters. Those suffering from varying levels of dementia have found themselves on public transport or disoriented at the wheel. Quite often wanderers frequent paths they know well. Wanderers who are in urban centres can have a very different experience to those in regional or rural settings. Context awareness is paramount for a carer. Is there a lake nearby? Is their busy traffic outside the family home? Is the wanderer known to people in the local community like café owners or train station attendants?
Since the early 2000s, various kinds of technological solutions have attempted to help those in need in various markets. Though we are making major inroads into what we have termed hierarchical positioning systems, most systems seem to fall short and so we still have many reports of wanderers falling to their deaths, or drowning, or suffering some other plight. The anguish for carers is significant. There is no respite for them, and the responsibility takes a grave toll on individuals.
This session will explore how technologies could be utilized to monitor people in need within the family home or institutional facility (e.g. wearing RFID/NFC tags) and furthermore how once traversing a public space the wanderer can be located. A number of factors can impact findability: morphological conditions, the individual’s agreement to wear a device, how to respond to mobile alerts once a trigger has been executed.
Participants will learn about:
- Individual wearer responses to wearable medic alert bracelets and tag technology
- In-building and on-campus solutions offered by BLE and UWB
- Advances in satellite-to-base chips (GPS sensors) used by the military
- The role of visual analytics in near real-time analysis
- Informed consent issues, duty of care, and getting privacy right
- Patterns of analysis in human activity monitoring and what that can tell us
- The importance of affordable solutions for primary carers who usually do not have a full time job while they are caring for loved ones who wander
- Coordination with emergency services for assistance in finding a missing person
Presenter: Professor Katina Michael, Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences, University of Wollongong
Collaborator: Dr Roba Abbas, honorary fellow, School of Computing and Information Technology, University of Wollongong
Tragic stories involving wanderers
It's a devastating occurrence, but it's not rare.
About 20 times a month, a child with autism wanders off, according to national statistics tracked by the nonprofit Autism Speaks.
Two or three of those children die each month in the United States, the group’s numbers from 2017 show.
The most common cause of death will not surprise anyone who followed last weekend's disappearance of 4-year-old Chelsea Noel.
"Autistic children aged 14 years and younger are 40 times more likely to die from injury than the general pediatric population," Li said. Specifically, drowning accounts for 46% of all injury deaths among children with autism, which translates to 160 times the chance of dying from drowning compared to other children.
"The risk of drowning in autistic children peaks at age 5 to 7 years," Li said.
He explained that children with the disorder often feel anxiety, and wandering, especially toward water, is one way they seek relief. With 100,000 children newly diagnosed with disorders each year in the US, he added, "the first concrete step parents and caregivers could take to reduce the exceptionally high risk of accidental drowning is to enroll these children in swimming classes."
2. WANDERING AND SAFETY MAJOR CONCERNS
People with autism are seven times more likely to encounter law enforcement; communication difficulties and atypical behavior can result in serious misunderstandings; people with autism are more likely to be victims of crimes; nearly 50 percent of people with autism wander or elope from safety; and accidental drowning accounts for approximately 90% of lethal wandering outcomes. To best address the safety needs of the community, Autism Speaks facilitates a two-pronged approach including Family Safety Fairs and Autism Awareness Training for First Responders.
A recent study showed 49 percent of parents with a child on the autism spectrum had reported that child had wandered away. Of those, 65 percent were in danger of a traffic accident, and 24 percent were in danger of drowning.1
"You can put the security systems, you can put locks on the door - not just where the doorknob is, but also up high and down low. You have security cameras, motion defectors in the middle of the night," Laxton said.
"The national program partners with local first responders to connect caregivers of children and adults with cognitive disorders with wearable trackers.
Each device emits a unique frequency and a tracker can pick up a signal from it one to two miles away, which drastically reduces the time of a more “blind” search.
“For us, as a community, to have something like this, it truly is, has the capability of saving lives and being able to find people before it’s too late,” said assistant chief of police Brian Nugent.
In Hendricks County, the devices, which have a $350 up-front cost, are free for qualifying children and adults who tend to wander.
“Our goal is simply to reach out with these families, let them know this program is available and do everything in our power to facilitate that at absolutely no hassle or cost to them,” said Nugent.
Hendricks County first responders handle battery changes every 60 days and replacing cases and wristbands for free too.
The wearable isn’t just for when the wearer is in Hendricks County. The radio frequency transmitters can be picked up in another county too, as long as a nearby first responder has a tracker.
When families enrolled in the program leave the county for an extended period of time, the Project Lifesaver coordinator, Karen Hendershot, calls ahead to give the visiting county a proactive call with the wearer’s frequency information before they arrive.
No matter where the wearer is, the peace of mind gained by the caregiver relieves some of the burden of caring 24/7 for a person with a cognitive disorder, who tends to wander and is attracted to water.
“You could answer the phone or use the restroom,” said Denoon. “No matter what you try, there’s a possibility they could escape if they really want to. You can’t be with them 24/7 no matter how much you try.”
Other counties also offer the Project Lifesaver program, but many require parents or caregivers to pay at least part.
It’s only available in Hendricks County for free because of grants and donations."
Top 10 Solutions for Adults with Dementia who wander as listed by Alzheimer's.net here.
AngelSense provides caregivers a comprehensive view of their loved one’s activities, comings and goings. The device attaches to a loved one’s clothing and can only be removed by the caregiver. It provides a daily timeline of locations, routes and transit speed and sends an instant alert to caregivers if their loved one is in an unfamiliar place. Caregivers can listen in to hear what is happening around their loved one, can receive an alert if their loved one has not left for an appointment on time, allows caregivers to communicate with their loved one, and sends an alarm to locate your loved one – wherever they are.
Similar to the GPS Shoe and from the same designers, the GPS Smart Sole fits into most shoes and allows caregivers to track their loved one from any smartphone, tablet or web browser. The shoe insert is enabled with GPS technology and allows real-time syncing, a detailed report of location history, and allows users to set up a safe radius for their loved one.
iTraq is a tracking device that can be used to track pretty much anything – from loved ones to luggage, this tracker pairs with an app on a smartphone to find anyone and anything. For seniors, the device includes a motion or fall sensor and will send an alert if a fall is detected. It also has a temperature sensor. Their newest device, the iTraq Nano is marketed as the world’s smallest all-in-one tracking device that has global tracking, two months battery life, is water and dust resistant is able to be charged wirelessly. The device also has an SOS button that will send an instant alert to friends and family, notifying them of their loved one’s precise location.
This device was originally created to help emergency responders treat patients who could not speak for themselves. Today, the device also helps people with dementia who wander. The device is worn as a bracelet and when a loved one goes missing, caregivers can call the police and have the police call the 24-hour hotline to get the location of the missing person. Caregivers can also call the hotline themselves to get information. In addition to a tracking device, the bracelet has important medical information engraved upon it.
Mindme offers two lifesaving devices, one is a location device, the other is an alarm. The alarm allows the user to alert a Mindme response center in case of a fall or other emergency. The locator device is specifically designed for people with dementia or other cognitive disabilities. The simple device works as a pendant that can be put in a bag or pocket and allows caregivers to track the user online at any time. Caregivers can also set a radius for the user and will be alerted if the person travels outside that zone.
PocketFinder was founded in 2005 by a single parent who wanted to know the whereabouts of his young son, especially when he wasn’t there. Their slogan, “If you love it, locate it!” sums up their philosophy and service offerings. Tracking everything from luggage to pets to children to seniors, the company offers a wide range of emerging technological products. PocketFinder is designed to be the smallest tracker on the market and the device can fit in the palm of your hand. It has a battery life up to one week and allows caregivers to track wearers through a user-friendly app. The device was updated in January 2017 and now includes three location technologies including GPS, Cell ID and Google Wi-Fi Touch. It also now has an SOS button.
The mission of Project Lifesaver is “to provide timely response to save lives and reduce potential injury for adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer’s, autism and other related condition or disorders.” Seniors who are enrolled in Project Lifesaver are given a personal transmitter that they wear around their ankle. If they wander, the caregiver calls a local Project Lifesaver agency and a trained team will respond. Recovery times average 30 minutes and many who wander are found within a few miles of their home. In addition to the location device, Project Lifesaver works with public safety agencies to train them on the risks associated with wandering.
Revolutionary Tracker has location-based systems to keep tabs on seniors who may wander. The company strives to “bring an unparalleled level of functionality, capability, ease of use and relevant presentation of information to give people the ability to extend communication, knowledge, protection and care for their loved ones.” Their GPS enabled personal tracker features an SOS button for emergencies and offers real-time tracking. This device allows multiple seniors to be tracked at the same time and syncs directly to a caregiver’s smart phone or computer.
9. Safe Link
Safe Link is another GPS tracking system available for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The product promises to “increase safety for the elderly, promote independent living and ultimately lead to a healthier lifestyle.” Safe Link is a small device carried by the person who may wander. The device periodically sends its geographic coordinates to central servers and family members and caregivers can view the wearer’s location via website. The device needs to be charged and worn at all times. All devices have an SOS button for emergencies.
Trax is touted as the world’s smallest and lightest live GPS tracker. The device sends position, speed, and direction through the cellular network directly to your app on a smartphone. Trax comes with a clip that is easy to attach to a loved one. The app allows caregivers to set “Geofences” and will send an alert if a loved one enters or leaves a predetermined area. Trax Geofences have no size limit, caregivers can create as many fence areas as needed, and can schedule when those virtual fences are in effect.