Surgery News

Australian dementia sufferers may wear tracking devices

November 11, 2015

Mandatory measures recently introduced by the Federal Government mean service providers must now report when people with dementia go missing and Justine Elliot, the Minister for Ageing, says a tag to make it easier for people to be found is being investigated.

Such bracelets are already used in the United States to track down Alzheimer's sufferers who have unintentionally left the house without informing carers and wandered off.

Alzheimer's Australia says the technology could be useful but should not be seen as a substitute for high quality dementia care.

Alzheimer's Australia says about one third of people with dementia at some point go missing, causing distress for carers and relatives.

Glenn Reese the group's national executive director says the device may benefit carers and be very useful for some people and should be explored.

Alzheimer's Australia would like to see an identification tag with a symbol indicating people have dementia introduced as soon as possible which would be readily recognisable in emergencies, in hospitals, in residential care and in the community.

Mr Rees says when a person with dementia goes missing it is very traumatic for family carers and while often the situation can be resolved quickly sometimes it ends with fatal consequences.

However while many carers have welcomed the move, critics say the devices may present issues of civil liberty and may set a dangerous precedent in terms of social control and monitoring.

Elliot however says people will not be forced to wear the device and several different possibilities in the treatment of Alzheimer's patients are being explored.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia in Australia and it is estimated that more than 200,000 Australians are affected by a form of dementia - as many as one in four people over the age of 85 have the condition.

Experts predict that in the next 20 years the number of people with dementia will more than double.

As planned, her body was donated to science when she died at age 115. At the time, she was the world's oldest woman. Examination after death found almost no evidence of atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) anywhere in her body. The brain also showed very few abnormalities??”the number of brain cells was similar to that expected in healthy people between 60 and 80 years old.

A key finding was the absence of brain abnormalities typical of Alzheimer's disease. There were almost no deposits of a substance called beta-amyloid, which are characteristic of Alzheimer's patients. The other abnormalities present, including "neurofibrillary tangles," were very mild??”too early to cause significant mental impairment.

The unique case lends new insights into the potential for preserving brain function in very elderly patients. Previous studies have found at least mild abnormalities in the brains of nearly all "cognitively normal" elderly people. As the number of people living to age 100 and beyond continues to increase, the findings suggest that deterioration of the brain is not inevitable.

In addition to the article, commentaries by Dr. Joseph L. Price of Washington University, St. Louis, Panteleimon Giannakopoulos of University Hospitals of Geneva, Switzerland and colleagues, and Drs. Kelly Del Tredici and Heiko Braak of the Institute for Clinical Neuroanatomy in Frankfurt/Main, Germany are available.