By Leon A Smith
May 3, 2013
There was an interesting article in the media this week about so called “tagging” of people living with dementia by a local police force. This announcement created a storm and was a hot topic for a couple of hours on various media talk shows. I understand that a prerequisite for journalists, be they on radio, print or television, is that they have the ability to make something out of nothing, ie to create a story from a non-story.
Consequently radio talk show hosts were very successful in building the police story into a major earth shatteringly important controversial topic. For those of you who did not come across the story this week – basically a police force have said that they are spending so much time looking for people who are lost due to confusion and dementia that they need to cut down on man hours being spent on this matter. Somebody therefore came up with the idea of offering to give to people who were prone to getting lost a GPS type gadget which will enable police to track where they were if they went missing. All in all quite a sensible and creative idea. Who wouldn’t want to be able to find their relative if they had dementia, who had done missing.
The “story” however was a comparison to ex prisoners being electronically tagged – the derogatory word being “tagged”. So basically the controversy/non-story revolved around the fact that GPS is also used for ex prisoners. There the comparison ends! Offenders are tagged to ensure that they don’t abscond. Older people living with dementia may benefit from GPS in order to ensure that they do not come to any harm. Both applications of this technology are practical and helpful to society. So why would the particular police force involved come in for any kind of condemnation? It’s difficult to fathom – other than the question of semantics, ie the use of the word “tagged”.
As a care home provider we now use technology wherever it is practical. Many frail older people are prone to falls. Many people are more likely to fall at night when they get up in the middle of the night, in the dark. In such cases we would use bed sensors which, when one of our residents gets out of bed, immediately alerts a carer through a pager and at the same time activates a light in the WC.
This is purely a health and safety issue in order to protect the well being of our residents. We are not “tagging” their beds and we are not “tagging” them. We are simply using technology to our advantage which we will continue to do and which most other care homes in the country also do. To the best of my knowledge this has not caused any controversy. There has been no criticism that we are in effect “monitoring” our residents by knowing when they get out of bed. We are doing this purely to help avoid falls which consequently lead to fractures etc etc.
There is now a large business sector dealing with assistive technology and “tele monitoring” designed to assist people in a variety of ways who are still able to live in their own homes, who without it may need to come into a care home.
The comparison between older people and offenders is not a valid one. The GPS system is an incredible innovation which has done nothing but good for us all. SatNavs or SatNav facilities on mobile phones are now used by us all and apart from occasionally taking us down an absurdly narrow country lane or cul-de-sac, technology has made a positive contribution to society. The moral of my story is that the so called controversy of “tagging” older people is a complete and total nonsense.