GPS tracking system unveiled for Alzheimer's patients

Web-based system sets up safety zone for Alzheimer's sufferers

The Alzheimer's Association has unveiled a new Web-based application that works with various mobile devices to track people suffering from dementia who may wander off at some point during their illness.

The association's Comfort Zone service was released earlier this month and is powered by Omnilink tracking services . It is the first comprehensive location management system designed specifically for Alzheimer's patients.

Comfort Zone uses OmniLink's FocalPoint tracking software and relies on GPS to find almost any location-enabled tracking device, which can then be used to monitor the location of an individual. If an Alzheimer's sufferer strays outside a pre-set zone, the software uses GPS and cellular technologies with online mapping to proactively send a text message or e-mail with the person's location. The message is sent within two to 30 minutes, depending on the family's selected tracking plan. Comfort Zone also offers families assistance with 24/7 monitoring center services and access to emergency health records from the MedicAlert Foundation.

"Comfort Zone is an interactive safety service that allows people with the disease to be more active and caregivers to be more confident whether they are in the same house, down the street, at work or across the country." Beth Kallmyer, director of Family and Information Services at the Alzheimer's Association, said in a statement.

Families or caregivers can log into a secure, password-protected Web site similar to logging into most e-mail systems and establish safety zones in which their relative can roam. These zones and alerts can be adjusted as the disease progresses.

Pricing for the service varies, beginning at $42.99 a month with a $45.00 activation fee.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive and fatal brain disease affecting about 5.3 million people in the U.S. That number is expected to grow to as many as 16 million by 2050, according to the the association's 2009 Alzheimer's Disease Facts & Figures report. The disease causes memory loss as it destroys brain cells and accounts for 50% to 70% of all dementia cases. There is no cure for Alzheimer's, although symptoms can be treated to lessen its affects. Six of 10 with Alzheimer's will wander away at some point, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

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