July 16, 2008

Trackers for ‘Wanderers’ Not Popular

By RANKIN, Janine

Red Cross wants to know why people don't seem to want to use them. -------------------- Wander Risk trackers designed to help find people with dementia quickly if they go walkabout are gathering dust a year after their launch.

Just one of the devices has been out for a brief time with one patient, said Red Cross area manager Lee Welch.

The system was introduced after two high profile cases in 2006 when dementia patients wandered off and died despite extensive and costly search efforts.

"It's a programme that could be very valuable, and we are going through an analysis at the moment to find out why it has not been taken up more," said Ms Welch.

The newly-appointed area manager said the one patient who had been put on to the programme only kept the tracking device for a short time before becoming more dependent and needing to be moved to a higher level of care.

"And that may be an issue - that there is a fairly tight window between when someone is identified as a wander risk and when they need to be in permanent care."

Ms Welch was working with another couple of people who had made inquiries about the scheme.

One caller had been under the impression it could be used for 24- hour monitoring, which is not part of the plan.

"We only turn the tracker on when we are alerted to the need to go looking for someone."

The device has a 2km detection range, so the search has to start at the place the person was last seen before they have time to move beyond that range.

The system depends on someone raising the alert promptly.

It won't help with patients who refuse to wear the tracker, or those with poor road sense or behaviour likely to place them in danger quickly.

Red Cross has teams trained in how to respond to a tracking situation, and on how to handle a lost wanderer when they are found.

Ms Welch hopes to give the system another round of promotion at a search and rescue conference in Palmerston North in November.

(c) 2008 Evening Standard; Palmerston North, New Zealand. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.