GPS Sneakers The Latest Development In Managing Elopements
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) devices are no longer just for cars and cell phones. They can help caregivers find residents with memory problems who have eloped. Providers can protect people who are at risk for elopement and allow caregivers to keep an eye on residents within a certain geographic area, thanks to a new sneaker equipped with a GPS.
Ambulators by Aetrex have a GPS locator inserted into the right heel. People at the Los Angeles-based GTX Corp. invented the technology and own the GPS shoe patent, which was originally developed for children and marathon runners. Enter a university professor with experience in assisted living administration who contacted GTX and sold the company on the idea of making the shoes for seniors in assisted living.
“The target audience for the sneakers is residents in traditional assisted living who do not require the full services of a memory care program, but may be at risk for becoming confused and elope,” says Andrew Carle, executive in residence for the Senior Housing Administration program at George Mason University, Fairfax, Va.
GTX was sold on the idea. It hired Carle as a consultant and got to work, licensing the manufacturing to Aetrex, a large retailer of wellness shoes. In January, Aetrex began selling the GPS sneakers on its website for $299. GTX provides the monitoring service, and the fee ranges between $35 and $40 per month.
Once purchased, assisted living staff can set the geographic parameters for the resident wearing the sneakers. If the resident walks outside the geographic zone, GTX sends a text or e-mail with an attached Google map indicating the resident’s location. Since the GPS device is powered by a battery, it needs recharging every night. The sneakers come with a charger that plugs into the back heel of the sneaker.
The biggest benefit of the sneakers is that residents view the sneakers as a shoe and not a device that is monitoring them.
One of the last things to go in Alzheimer’s patients is their habitual or procedural memory, says Carle,
which includes dressing themselves, so putting on a shoe is not unusual for them. Carle says the sneakers are less likely to be taken off because residents think they are putting on a regular shoe. He’s known residents
who wear monitoring wrist bracelets or other devices to become paranoid and try to rip off the device. The sneakers avoid triggering those feelings, and, therefore, the sneakers remain on their feet and maximize the chances of finding them if they wander, he says.
Some of the largest assisted living companies have shown interest in purchasing the sneakers for their residents. While Carle recommends that the sneakers be used for residents with early to mid-stage memory problems, a few of those companies have told him they would purchase the sneakers for late-stage Alzheimer residents.
“Every community could make a choice of whether they want to offer the shoes as an add-on service or recommend that a resident or the family member purchase the shoe,” he says.
For more information, visit Aetrex at www.aetrex.com