Home protection systems for Alzheimer, Dementia & Autism


Wandering alert systems are not all created equal – in fact they are very different in cost , their usefulness and which one would work for you would depend on your requirements. It is important to understand the different solutions before making the purchase decision.

This article covers the Wander alarm systems for homes .

The home wander alarm systems are broadly based on following based technologies. a) Pressure sensor b) Motion sensor  c) GPS and Geo-location d) Wireless Geo Fencing

Pressure Sensor Based Alarm Systems – These wander alert systems monitor the presence/absence of pressure to detect a person and use this information for wandering. The pressure sensor  based wander alert systems fall into following subcategories:

  1. Pressure present/absent senor – These sensors detect the presence/absence of pressure. If used on a bed or a chair presence of pressure confirms the presence of the dementia patient and hence confirms their safety. If placed and use as a floor mat sensor detects a potential for elopement.
  2. Smart Pressure senor – These sensors detect both presence and absence and time between these events to detect and alert wandering. For example the some bed Alert System sounds only when a person fails to return to bed after a pre-determined amount of time. This certainly reduces  false alarms but still will generate many false alert.

Pressure based wander alarm systems would have the highest false alert capabilities making them virtually useless in most cases expect for wander management or fall safety of the critically ill or senile elderly.

Motion Sensor based wander alarm Systems – These wander alert systems are door alarms which detect and alerts the motion of the person reaching close to the door or crossing the door. A number of variations exist – some generate local audio alerts, local to the sensor, others  have wireless remote devices which alerts a distant alert but within the home.  These door motion sensor wander alert systems fall into following sensor subcategories:

Door open sensor – These systems alarms each time a door opens. Hence for such systems the door must always be shut and opening of the door is a signal that the elopement of a dementia patient is in progress.

Door walk-through sensor – These door alarms, generates an audio or visual alert each time a care receiver crosses the door. Hence  for walk through systems  the door can be left open. This a step better since a open door is important for the wellbeing of the wanderer.

Door approach sensor – This anti-wandering system functions with a door alarm and a wearable device – worn as a wristband or as a pendant. The door alarm is mounted on the doorway and when the person wearing the device approaches the door  the door monitor alarm sounds audibly and visually.

Because motion sensor indiscreetly alerts when a motion is detected these motion based wander alert are virtually useless for healthy dementia patient and people with Autism. When these people move around and each time they move close to the door a false alarm is generated. Excessive false alarms render such systems useless. Such systems would be useful for senile elderly or for critically ill patients who have limited motion.

GPS based or Geo Location based wireless wander alert systems – GPS based wireless alert systems have the best chance of alerting and finding the  wandered dementia patient of any wander alert system. However many practical disadvantages of such system make them not very useful. Most GPS based solutions suffer with many  of these practical limitations:

  1. Expensive – These devices are generally over $200 and hence expensive.
  2. High monthly fees – These devices carry high monthly costs anywhere between $20-$40 per month.
  3. Short battery life – GPS units are power hungry and hence battery lasts for shorter periods anywhere from 1 day to a few days.
  4. Large device – GPS units are generally large and clunky to carry for most elderly. Being large they are conspicuous and cause additional stress for the people with dementia or autism.
  5. Homes and basements are not covered – The GPS based units do not work in basements and inside homes, hence these units are useful only when the elopement has occurred.

Wireless tethered wander alert – The wireless tethered wander alert systems are based on relatively new technologies  and use a novel approach to wander protection. In this case a small wireless device with long battery life is placed on shoes , jacket, or is worn as a wristband or as a pendant. A wireless tether is formed between the wearable device and a home unit. Using this system the person is free to wander around within the home or even in the backyard.

As soon as the real elopement occurs i.e. the dementia patient leaves the  home through any door for an extended period (say 60 seconds), the home unit detects the absence of the device and generates the alarm. The base station can have ability to the alerts the caregiver using multiple channels such as SMS, smart phone notification or a voice call notification.

Safety Labs’ Safety Anchor-WP is one such Wireless tethered wander alert. Watch YouTube video  Anchor-WP.

I am very intersted to know other types we may have missed – please leave your comments.


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