A popular device used to locate lost items like keys, a wallet, or a bag, is being used by some Americans to track their loved ones with dementia, a report says.
"Caregivers have turned to Apple’s tiny, $29 tracking devices after finding other methods of monitoring people with dementia aren’t a fit, or are too expensive. Many tracking apps require people to have their phones with them. People with dementia might forget them when they leave the house, say caregivers. They do tend to remember keys and wallets, however, to which the AirTags were designed to attach," The Wall Street Journal reports.
Public health officials, however, say tracking people with dementia is ethically murky because some people don't want to be tracked.
Some people using AirTags say they lack the precision to be useful in dire situations.
An estimated 6.5 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s dementia in 2022, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s disease was officially listed as the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States in 2019 and the seventh-leading cause of death in 2020 and 2021 when COVID-19 entered the ranks of the top 10 causes of death.
"Just because someone has been diagnosed with dementia doesn’t mean they can’t still make decisions for themselves," Joseph Gaugler, a professor of long-term care and aging at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, told The WSJ. "They can and should be asked if it’s OK with them."
The idea also isn't fail-proof. AirTags don't have GPS.
"AirTag sends out a secure Bluetooth signal that can be detected by nearby devices in the Find My network. These devices send the location of your AirTag to iCloud — then you can go to the Find My app and see it on a map," Apple's website says.
"AirTag is designed to discourage unwanted tracking," Apple says on its website.
The Alzheimer’s Association's list of ways to reduce the risks of wandering can be found here.
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