SALT LAKE CITY - A northern Utah sheriff's office is floating a unique and unproven idea for keeping seniors with Alzheimer's disease and dementia safe: Give them ankle monitors normally used on criminals on house arrest or parole.
There are no shortage of private health-care companies and law enforcement agencies around the country that offer tracking devices such as bracelets, necklaces or pocket-size locators that allow families to find loved ones who suffer from dementia and wander off.
But the Davis County sheriff's proposal to strap seniors with the bulky ankle monitors - which most people associate with criminals on parole - appears to be new.
Deputy Sheriff Kevin Fielding said the agency announced the idea in a news release Tuesday so it could gauge public interest. Sheriff's officials know many options exist for families trying to keep their grandparents safe, but the agency already has the monitors and technology available through a private company it contracts with for its inmates.
"If Grandma wanders off, we could find exactly where she is," Fielding said. "If we could bring a search to a close in 30 minutes in a winter like we had this year, that'd be a whole lot better than eight hours."
Fielding said the ankle monitors also could be used for autistic children or anyone at risk of wandering off.
The monitors would be voluntary and offered for about $4 a day. Police would monitor the person's movement only when relatives contact them.