Caring At Home

A scheme to evaluate the effectiveness of providing a GPS (Global Positioning System) locator to people diagnosed with dementia has been launched by the Torbay and Southern Devon Health and Care NHS Trust.

The trust will  provide a GPS locator, free of charge, to a hundred people in the Local Authority areas of Torbay, Devon and North Somerset for a 12 month period in the hope of  prolonging the time they will be able to live independently.

Losing sense of time and place is a symptom of dementia and one of the main fears carers and family members have is that a loved one will wander off and get lost. Equipping the person with dementia with a GPS device linked up to a call centre can provide considerable reassurance to loved ones knowing that the person’s whereabouts can be located if need arises.

People who sign up will be asked to nominate “responders” who would be able to alert the call centre 24/7 should the person go missing. The signal from the device could then be tracked to  indicate the person’s whereabouts, enabling them to be safely re-united with their carer. Similarly, an SOS button on the device  can  be activated by the user themself to summon help if they become lost or distressed.

It is hoped that the scheme, which is being funded from  grant money provided by the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge Initiative, will provide valuable long term information about the possible impact of GPS locators. Will it reduce the numbers of calls to 999 for instance? And will it lengthen the time those with dementia can live at home independently rather than having to resort to residential care?

The project has the backing of Devon and Cornwall Police, who would be contacted as part of the scheme by call centre staff if the call needs to be escalated, in which case it would be categorised as an emergency.

The Torbay Dementia Action Alliance has long campaigned for provision of GPS devices for all dementia sufferers. Norman McNamara has commented on the subject:

“The impact of having a family member who is unable to look after themselves go missing is immense to say the least and the relief of knowing they have been found safe and well is euphoric. Put that together with the peace of mind people have when a loved one has one of these location devices, knowing if the worst happened, they could possibly be found in minutes and we have a peace of mind never known before.

You can, if you want, start to count the of money saved by the emergency services which will no doubt run into thousands of ££££s , but the one thing you cannot count is the amount of relief felt by loved ones, family members and carers when the person is found safe and well. This cannot be measured financially.”

The scheme is open to people living in the local authority areas of Torbay, Devon and North Somerset. Anyone interested in signing up to the scheme should contact Lauren Mallandaine, Dementia Challenge Project Officer, telephone 01803 321139 or email

Click on the link here to find out more from the Torbay and South Devon Health and Care NHS Trust website.