The introduction of GPS tags being attached to dementia patients who regularly go missing has been classed as barbaric by campaigners.
It has been introduced by Sussex police for the tags to be attached to older care patients who are likely to wonder off, as Sussex Police have estimated that one-in-four of more than 300 missing persons inquiries it launched in 2011 involved a dementia patient.
A number of local authorities are already using similar devices to track sufferers, but this is believed to be the first time a police force has taken on such a scheme.
The reason they have given is that it will save money on searching for them.It will also reduce the anxiety of families of patients who go missing, and reduce the risk of harm to the patient, but social care campaigners say it just a way to cheapen social care services.
They say it is a crude form of monitoring as if patients were receiving adequate social care, which includes monitoring, then they would not go missing, and that this is the problem that needs to be fixed.
To be forced to wear a GPS tag is described as barbaric as it is similar to tags attached to criminals, and is said to be inhumane to treat people suffering with an illness and need care and support in the same way as someone who is being tracked as a punishment for a criminal act. Neil Duncan-Jordan, the national officer of the National Pensioners’ Convention says the device puts patients on par with criminals.
The tracking device can be worn around patients’ necks, clipped to belts and attached to house keys, and it also has a button to connect to a 24-hour call centre.
Chief Inspector Tanya Jones said:
The GPS will be very cost-effective to the police. It will reduce anxiety for the family and really reduce the police time spent on this issue.
However, Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, does not think this is a good enough reason and accused the police of “trying to get care on the cheap”:
Trying to equate somebody who has committed a criminal act with somebody who is suffering dementia is completely wrong.
I doubt whether anyone in the Cabinet would want their parents dealt with in this way if they were suffering from dementia.
It looks at the problem in the wrong way. If you’ve got people in the community who are so bad that they are wandering off at night and are not safe, they should be properly cared for, they shouldn’t be tagged.
It’s a crude form of monitoring when the issue needs a much more detailed response than this.
The use of GPS devices has also called the patients human rights in to question.
An East Sussex Conservative councillor, Bill Bentley has pointed out that some patients may not wished to be tracked. He has warned it could see a technological solution imposed on people in a way “that they may or may not wish to have happened”.
The Alzheimer’s Society say:
In some circumstances and when appropriate consent is given, GPS tracking can enable a person with dementia to remain independent for longer, providing them and their carer with peace of mind.
But we must balance the potential advantages to the individual and the protection of a person’s civil liberties. Any tracking system must support and never replace good quality care.
At what point can you leave people with dementia at risk and when do you step in and prevent the risk , even if the method of prevention is used because it is the easiest? When does the prevention stop being a time and money saving idea and become inhuman?
The best way to think of it is which treatment would you prefer if you had a life changing and confusing illness like dementia?
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