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Friday, 27 September, 2002, 07:51 GMT 08:51 UK
Electronic tagging for Alzheimer's
Pensioners at Martin House
The scheme hopes to stop patients wandering off
Elderly people at a west London care home are being tagged using the same equipment that is used to keep track of young offenders.

Alzheimer's sufferers at Martin House in Southall, Ealing are taking part in the scheme which aims to stop them wandering into danger.

The tags look like black watches attached to the wrist, which page staff if residents wander into a potentially dangerous area.

Consent is given by relatives of the residents taking part in the pilot scheme by Ealing Council.

Electronic tag
Sarita Rakhra's mother is wearing the new tag

Sarita Rakhra said she was not concerned about her mother being tagged with the same equipment used on young offenders.

She told BBC London: "Police are using it to police criminals but my mother is not a criminal, she is a victim of her illness and the monitoring device just ensures her safety."

But the scheme is raising ethical concerns including questions about civil liberties.

Clive Evers, from the Alzheimer's Society, said: "Consent is a really important issue.

"We know the majority of people in residential care, over 200,000 in the UK, three quarters of those people will have a dementia and won't be able to give consent."

Stigma attached

The pilot scheme follows trials at Charing Cross Hospital under Dr Frank Miskelly.

He rejected concerns the use of tagging technology might lead to a reduction in staffing at care homes.

He said: "This is not a substitute for care, it is an additional safety feature."

He added: "There is a stigma attached to the equipment but there are enormous potential benefits and I think that will overcome the stigma."

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The BBC's Gill Higgins
"It's designed to keep people safe from hazards"

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See also:

20 Sep 02 | Health
29 May 02 | Politics
20 Dec 00 | A-B
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