New Technology for Dementia Sufferers in Westminster
31st March 2010
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Westminster council has become the first in the UK to use new satellite technology to help residents who have dementia and their carers.

Currently 700,000 people have dementia, the equivalent of one person in every 88 in the UK. A large proportion of those have Alzheimer's disease. That figure is predicted to rise to more than one million in 20 years and to 1.7 million by 2050.

Many people with dementia feel the need to walk around, a symptom which is often described as wandering. 60 per cent of people with dementia may suffer from this and 40 per cent have got lost at some time outside their homes, which can be extremely distressing.

Westminster City Council is the first in the UK to offer "safer walking technology" to support some of the area's most vulnerable residents in leading fuller lives. This technology can also provide reassurance to families or carers who may be worried about dementia sufferers becoming lost when they go out alone.

How does the new technology work?

Worn around the neck, wrist or fitted to a person's clothes, the electronic devices, use GPS (Global Positioning Systems). This allows the user's movements to be monitored on a map via a secure website. If the wearer goes outside a specific area carers and family members can also be alerted by a phone call or text. In addition to this service, users who become confused, stressed or worried can use a panic button function to alert a control room of their whereabouts.

Westminster resident Desmond Inniss, 78, from Westbourne Park, started using the technology after getting lost in his local neighbourhood.

He said: "This device has given me my freedom back. I go out when I want without worry or fear of getting lost somewhere. I wish I'd started using it sooner."

Andrew Ketteringham, Director of External Affairs at the Alzheimer’s Society, says: ‘It’s great to see Westminster Council investing in safer walking technology. We often hear from people with dementia who tell us that such technology allows them to have greater freedom and independence and feel more confident doing things they might not otherwise be able to do. It can also relieve some of the anxiety felt by carers that someone with dementia might get lost."

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