Many dementia patients experience greater peace of mind and are more physically active when they are able to carry along a GPS (global positioning system) device, according to a new study of 200 patients in Norway.
Not only does the device help patients find their way home, but it also allows caretakers to track and find the patients should they become lost.
“We have seen many positive benefits,” said researchers Tone Øderud and Dag Ausen at SINTEF, an independent research organization in Norway. “The study has confirmed that dementia sufferers can maintain their independence, enjoy their freedom, and continue to pursue their outdoor activities in spite of the development of their illness.”
The initial project began with five municipalities and 50 patients, and in 2015 it was expanded to include 18 municipalities and 200 patients. The participants, who suffered from dementia or another type of cognitive dysfunction, had experience in using their GPS devices anywhere between three months and two years.
Virtually all of the study participants (patients, family caretakers, health service providers, and staff at out-patient clinics and nursing homes) say that the GPS devices offered them greater peace of mind. This information was obtained through interviews with the subjects as well as surveys.
Spouses of dementia patients, especially for those who are still in the workforce, can benefit significantly from the GPS device, as it allows for less worry and more time at work.
“For younger dementia sufferers, the use of a GPS device means that a spouse can spend more time at work and plan their day-to-day routines better,” says Øderud.
The technology can result in financial savings as well, say the researchers, as it allows for dementia patients to live longer at home or to reside in open rather than secure nursing home wards. Only a few patients felt that they were under surveillance.
The findings show that about one-fourth of sufferers who report benefits from using GPS also obtain a direct benefit from being able to live longer at home. If their functioning deteriorates to the extent that they are unable to live at home, they can nevertheless reside in an open ward in a nursing home.
The researchers emphasize the importance of establishing regular routines for dementia patients who begin using GPS devices. Most sufferers find it useful to have the GPS device by the door, and then hang it around their neck or put it in their pocket when they go out.
Some have learned how to charge their devices, while others rely on family or visiting nurses for supervision and assistance.