Utah authorities think they have a valuable new use for the ubiquitous ankle bracelet: to locate missing patients with Alzheimer's or dementia.
Officials in Davis County, about half an hour north of Salt Lake City, say the device, which typically monitors criminals on house arrest or parole, could be a cost-effective solution to a common problem.
"We think it's just a different application for an existing technology," Deputy Sheriff Kevin Fielding said. "We run a jail here. We've had an electronic monitoring program already in place for years and years. So do the probation and parole people. Why not add to the list of the people the devices are used on?"
The department is seeking public response to the idea, he said, and has signed a contract with a supplier of the devices. Ankle bracelets, he said, cost $4 a day — about $120 a month — and could significantly reduce the time it takes to find a lost person. The idea isn't exactly new: Health care and other companies offer tracking devices such as bracelets or pocket-size locators for individuals.
Six in 10 people with Alzheimer's wander off at some point, statistics show.
But not everyone thinks the bracelets are the proper solution.
Beth Kallmyer, vice president of constituent services for the Alzheimer's Association, told the Associated Press that patients don't even want to wear location devices that look like bracelets or necklaces because they don't want to be singled out.
"These are people that have a disease — they are not criminals," Kallmyer said. "We want to make sure we are protecting their dignity."