Vulnerable Missing People – Assistive and GPS Technology

We live in a gadget driven age with almost daily developments in smart technology. In some cases, these advances enable people living with dementia, debilitating conditions or mental health problems, to extend the period that they are able to live independently. New tech has also proved a valuable tool in keeping vulnerable people safe, particularly reducing risk to people who may wander and subsequently go missing.  Whilst wandering can be beneficial to a person, inevitably some people do get lost. They can quickly become disorientated, confused and unable to navigate properly. This will undoubtedly lead to anxiety, fear and potentially panic. Once lost, they are in danger of injury and even death from falls, accidents, exposure or lack of nutrition and fluids.

Where missing people are concerned, Assistive Technology (AT) can aide us with adopting a problem-solving approach in preventing a person from going missing in the first place. GPS technology enables families, carers and social care professionals to put in place a method, which allows a person to be traced or tracked, when there is a real concern that they may go missing. GPS also provides law enforcement and search agencies with a valuable tool in locating a missing person quickly and safely.

Whilst AT and GPS are different, there are certain devices that carry out a dual role, such as GPS trackers with a ‘geo-fence’ capability, which once activated alert a carer when a person exits a pre-set area. Both AT and GPS technology are not without their doubters and critics. There is the inevitable huge debate on a “right to privacy”. In this article we look at how AT and GPS have a place in safeguarding missing people, potential benefits, disadvantages and the ethical considerations.

It is important that if you are a professional in Social Care and are considering using assistive technology, you should do so in consultation with a health care professional and any other agencies involved with the individual. However, it is also vital that at all times the person with dementia or other condition is kept at the centre of the decision-making process.

We also recommend you read our articles – ‘Dementia – An insight into Walking, Wandering and Missing’ and ‘Dementia – Reducing the risk of harm from ‘Wandering’.

Thanks for reading.

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