State to test GPS tracking of forgetful patients

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Norwegians suffering from early signs of Alzheimer’s Disease or other forms of dementia may soon be equipped with a GPS device that will allow them to go out without as much fear of them getting lost. The GPS will help others find them if they can’t find their own way home.

Use of the GPS (Global Positioning System) devices has been discussed for some time, but some opponents thought it would violate state privacy laws. Those using them had to approve of the fact that their whereabouts would be traceable, and that they could be electronically tracked down.

Now state officials are testing out a program to see how GPS systems could actually work. Advocates say that simply carrying a device adds to the security and confidence of not only the person suffering from memory loss but also all those around him or her.

Eva Tangevold, for example, is an otherwise healthy 80-year-old who’s accustomed to putting on her coast and going for a walk, especially when the weather is nice. She’s had trouble getting home, though, and now a home nurse who checks in on her every day can find her if Tangevold isn’t home at an agreed time.

Health Minister Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen sees the GPS devices as a useful tool, as more and more ageing Norwegians suffer dementia. Authorities in charge of ensuring privacy laws in Norway say they have no problem with the program, as long as the patient involved is agreeable to carrying a GPS.

Views and News staff