ABC News’ Alicia Tarancon reports:
Imagine the terrifying feeling of trying to find your lost mother or father. They wandered off again because they have Alzheimer’s, a disease that affects 5.4 million people in the United States.
Now one accessory has been developed to prevent that. The first shoes with a built-in GPS system are scheduled to hit store shelves later this month, giving families and caregivers an easy way to track lost loved ones, Agence France-Presse reports.
The company behind the shoe, GTX, has already shipped the first 3,000 pairs to be sold through Aertex World Wide. The Los Angeles company patented a miniature GPS device small enough to fit in the heel. They will sell for around $300.
Consultant and assistant professor Andrew Carle at George Mason University’s Program in Senior Housing Administration said the shoes could save lives.
“Sixty percent [of people with Alzheimer's] will wander off and get lost,” said Carle, a scare that prompts panicked family members to call the police.
Carle said the shoes could be synched with Google Maps to pinpoint exactly where the person wearing them goes. The devices could even be programmed to send an alert if the wearer wanders out of a specified area, or ”geofence.”
Carle said people with Alzheimer’s or dementia don’t always realize they’re lost and, if frightened, might even decide to hide.
There are “very high rates of death within 24 hours – half dead of Alzheimer’s patients die from injuries and dehydration,” he said. “It’s not good.”
There are other tracking options available, such as tracking bracelets and small assist buttons that can be stored in a pocket, clipped onto clothes or worn around the neck. Wander Guard is another alert system that triggers an alarm when someone opens a door to leave.
But Carle said GPS shoes prevent patients from easily removing the tracking the device.
“If they never wore a wristwatch, they will look at it and say whose is that and take it off or that’s not my bracelet, that’s not my pendent,” he said.
The shoes don’t replace the need to pay close attention to people with Alzheimer’s but offer caregivers another tool to help take care of them.
“Every day people with Alzheimer’s are getting lost, but it doesn’t have to be” that way, said Carle.