Ethical aspects of using GPS for tracking people with dementia: recommendations for practice

Int Psychogeriatr. 2012 Mar;24(3):358-66. doi: 10.1017/S1041610211001888. Epub 2011 Oct 3.


Background: Problems with out-of-home mobility are among the more common behavioral disturbances in dementia. Today people with dementia can be aided by easily accessible assistive technologies, such as tracking devices using Global Positioning Systems (GPS). Attitudes toward these technologies are still inconclusive and their use with people with dementia raises ethical concerns. The lack of ethical consensus on the use of GPS for people with dementia underlines the need for clearer policies and practical guidelines.

Methods: Here we summarize qualitative and quantitative findings from a larger research project on the ethical aspects of using GPS for tracking people with dementia.

Results: The findings are formulated in a list of recommendations for policy-makers as well as for professional and family caregivers. Among other points, the recommendations indicate that the preferences and best interests of the people with dementia should be central to the difficult decisions required in dementia care. Further, no-one should be coerced into using tracking technology and, where possible, people with dementia must be involved in the decision-making and their consent sought.

Conclusions: The decision whether, when and how to use GPS for tracking people with dementia should be made at the time of diagnosis jointly by the person with dementia, his/her family and professional caregivers. This decision should be made in formal structured meetings facilitated by a professional team.

Publication types

  • Guideline
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alzheimer Disease / diagnosis
  • Alzheimer Disease / nursing*
  • Alzheimer Disease / psychology
  • Attitude
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Equipment Design
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Geographic Information Systems / ethics*
  • Geographic Information Systems / instrumentation
  • Health Policy
  • Home Nursing / ethics
  • Humans
  • Interdisciplinary Communication
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Patient Care Team
  • Patient Participation
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Privacy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Wandering Behavior