Montreal police are studying the feasibility of offering GPS bracelets to people with Alzheimer’s disease and other medical conditions that make them vulnerable to wandering.
This month, the body of an elderly Montreal woman with Alzheimer’s was found in the snow after a three-day search. A tracking device using a global positioning system might have resulted in the woman — whose family said she had wandered off before — being found alive.
Although in its preliminary stages, the cost-benefit study is expected to provide some answers on whether GPS bracelets should be offered to certain at-risk individuals, and whether such bracelets should be publicly funded.
Chief Insp. Paul Chablo, director of communications for the Montreal police, said it’s too early to raise expectations about implementing the plan.
The study was launched three months ago, and findings will only be available in the new year.
“The biggest priority is the people and how we can find them faster,” Chablo said. But, he added, “obviously, we want to make sure tax dollars are being well spent.”
But some groups have reservations about the idea. Perhaps surprisingly, the Alzheimer Society of Montreal was one of them.
“Our concern is that the use of GPS may lead people to have a false sense of security, to think that the person does not need human contact,” said Laura Guerschanik, an education co-ordinator with the Montreal Alzheimer Society.
And while GPS bracelets might be helpful in some cases, usually those involving fairly independent people in the early stages of the disease, Guerschanik said, GPS can only complement the security measures a family has put in place. It is no substitute for the human interaction that an Alzheimer’s patient requires.
Statistics compiled by the society indicate that a person with Alzheimer’s runs a 50-per-cent risk of death or injury if not found within the first 12 hours after disappearing, she said.