Having a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s can be stressful. In the United States, there are over 16 million individuals caring for a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease with no cure and with limited medical treatments. Being a caregiver is a full-time that can be both physically and mentally taxing, especially as the patient’s condition progresses. Most caregivers experience loneliness, anxiety, and exhaustion, and many may suffer from depression and burnout.  To help with some of this is a new GPS for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients that fits right inside of the shoe.
A fear of every caretaker is their loved one getting lost and unable to find the way home, whether they forget their addresses or can’t communicate well to any passerby trying to help. Or perhaps they will leave home unattended and wander away. Fortunately, there are products designed to help ease the stress for caretakers, and here is one:
GPS Enabled Shoes
GTX Corp created the GPS SmartSole, insoles with GPS and cellular technology to track the wearer via a phone or computer. The insoles aren’t very different from traditional insoles you’ll find at a pharmacy, light and discreet. They are said to be a smarter option than GPS bracelets and other trackers since the GPS is hidden in an item the patient hardly leaves the house without.
“The primary reason is that paranoia is a manifestation of the disease,” says Andrew Carle, a professor at George Mason University’s College of Health and Human Services. “If you put something on someone with Alzheimer’s that they don’t recognize, they remove it. If it’s a wristwatch and it’s not their wristwatch, they will take it off. So you have to hide it.”
He continues to state that about five million Americans suffer from this disease, and 60% tend to wander and are at the risk dying from dehydration, injury, or exposure.
Therapist Lynette Louise specializes in developmentally disabled persons recommends the soles to her clients to give them the freedom of walking while keeping them safe and their caretakers at ease.
The company promotes the story of Patti Ciancaglini who got these insoles for her husband, Ray Ciancaglini, the former professional boxer. He enjoys strolling outdoors on their property, but Patti worries he might get lost or caught in unpredictable weather. The GPS insoles give her peace of mind and the ability to take care of her husband instead of putting him into a home.
“He may not think clearly enough to put on a coat,” she said. “But he’ll definitely put on his shoes.”
“This is a significant milestone for both companies and while the $604 billion worldwide costs of dementia has become and will continue to be a significant fiscal challenge, the under $300 GPS enabled shoes will ease the enormous physical and emotional burden borne by Alzheimer’s victims, caregivers, and their geographically distant family members,” said Patrick Bertagna, chief executive of GTX Corp, the company that created the GPS SmartSole. 
There are drawbacks to this product, however.
For one, the price for these soles about $300, which can be too steep for many families.
Second, GPS transmission will be limited in areas without electrical interferences like under bridges, in buildings, underground, or in woods.
Third, patients wearing the GPS soles can’t keep track of where they are on their own, which makes some experts concerned that caretakers will use this product and think it’s safe to allow their loved ones to wander on their own. After all, a GPS can’t take the place of actual supervision.
An elderly person wandering alone could get into a dangerous and harmful situation, and the shoes are unable to help with that. Let’s say a person sees their loved one walking toward a busy street. She forgot to wear the medical alert bracelet and her cell phone is at home. There may not be enough time for the caretaker or 911 to respond.
In short, technology can’t take the place of proper supervision and vigilance. 
Types of Tracking Devices
If a tracking device sounds helpful, take note of the perks and limitations of the three most common types. Examine where they will be needed, the freedom of movement each one allows, who will monitor the device and if the patient is able to use the device.
- GPS devices – Like SmartSoles, but may be found in other items like watches and ankle straps.
- Homing devices – They use radio signals to find a person’s location. They do have a short-range of less than five kilometers, but they could be used indoors.
- Cell phones – New phones have a locating system where the user can dial 911. However, the user must have the phone with then at all times and know how and when to use it.
The Ethics of Tracking
There are some ethical considerations when it comes to locating devices since they steal the wearers personal freedom, independence, and dignity. This needs to be thought about when looking for ways to improve their safety.
The answer will change depending on the person, their specific values, and the situation. The Alzheimer Society recommends families to have these discussions soon after the dementia diagnosis to plan for the future. 
- Lawrence Robinson, Melissa S. Wayne, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Tips for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers. Help Guide. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia-aging/tips-for-alzheimers-caregivers.htm August 2019
- AFP Relax News. GPS shoes for Alzheimer’s patients monitor wandering seniors who may be suffering from dementia. NY Daily News. https://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/gps-shoes-alzheimer-patients-monitor-wandering-seniors-suffering-dementia-article-1.967791
- Carolyn Rosenblatt. GPS Enabled Shoes For People With Alzheimer’s. Forbes.https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolynrosenblatt/2011/09/27/gps-enabled-shoes-for-people-with-alzheimers/#9bea9645f4fe September 27, 2011
- Alzheimer Society of Canada. Locating Devices. https://alzheimer.ca/en/Home/Living-with-dementia/Day-to-day-living/Safety/Locating-devices December 17, 2018