Aug 04, 2017

Tracking People with Dementia: Increased Safety or an Invasion of Privacy?

Some common symptoms of dementia are forgetfulness and confusion. Whereby people living with dementia at times may find themselves in a position where they are down the street and can’t recall where they need to be or how they get there.

Just because a person may get lost or confused, does not mean that they have to forfeit their ability to go out, whether it be alone or in the company of others.

To assist people living with dementia there are new “tracking” technologies that have been made.

In Japan, there is a city that has begun tagging people with QR codes, which can be scanned if they get lost.

A Tokyo based company have developed stickers, small enough to fit onto a person’s fingernail, that would carry a unique identity number to help locate them should loved ones be concerned about their whereabouts.  

The code would contain some personal details – which includes their local city hall and a contact phone number. The idea is once the person is taken to their local city hall, the person would then receive more assistance and their family would be contacted.

dementia tracking

These QR codes, which only last up to a few weeks before they need to be replaced, are a part of a free service that is a first of its kind in Japan.

Such tracking technologies has been successful in other industries for monitoring location and safety such as for children and pets, who may at times not be able to communicate their location – but it raises the question of whether they allow for better safety for people with dementia, or an invasion of privacy.

Kate Swaffer, a dementia advocate who also lives with dementia herself, sees some benefit in the technology but it also wary that it is not for everyone, “like me, some people with dementia see tracking devices of any type as enhancing their independence, and my husband can already track me via my iPhone.”

“Of course, not everyone with dementia uses a mobile phone, so something like this code tracker may be useful. However, others with dementia view tracking of any kind as a total invasion of their privacy and also a breach of their human rights.”

“There is no easy answer to this, as having been a nurse in dementia, and a past care partner for three people with dementia, I also understand how worrying, and sometimes dangerous it can be for someone with dementia to get lost.”

“Personally, I feel as long as the dignity of the person is not at risk, then they can be very helpful, for both families and the person with dementia wanting to maintain independence.”

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