How to Keep Track of Elderly Parents on The Go

For all your childhood, adolescence, and most of your adult life, your parents have likely protected and worried about you more than you can imagine.  As time passes, the table turns, and children find themselves worrying about their elderly parents.  The worry can be especially great when parents begin facing some of the downfalls of aging that can place them in danger. 

In this article, you will learn about ways to keep track of your elderly parents.  While these ways will likely put your mind at ease, they will not strip your parents of their independence. 

GPS Trackers can be Useful for Tracking Elderly Parents

When elderly parents reach a certain point in life, physiological and emotional factors need to be considered when thinking about their safety and well-being.  Because of this, it may be important to keep track of their activities to ensure they are healthy and safe.  Some options can help put your mind at ease.

The thought of putting a tracking device on anyone seems a bit over the top, but when you are in a situation where safety is a factor, it is likely just enough.  Often, elderly individuals fight to hold onto independence if they can.  Because of this, there is often a lot of concern that is felt by family members when they cannot be with them.

Suppose you are the child of an older adult that insists on continued independence. In that case, even though there are significant safety concerns, a tracking device may be the answer you are searching for. While it may not allow you to see your parents physically, it will allow you to keep tabs on when they leave home and return. 

Types of GPS Tracking devices

If you do a quick search of GPS trackers, you will likely become overwhelmed. It is important to remember that GPS trackers are used for many different things, so some will be more appropriate than others.  The tracking devices that would be best for monitoring your elderly parents are

Watches:  This is one of the most common methods of GPS tracking.  It is discrete, but it is also a functional way to track the movement of an individual. When choosing a watch as a tracking device, you need to be sure the individual will wear the watch because it will not be helpful if they are constantly leaving it at home.  Not to mention it will likely send you into a panic to see no movement for several hours. 

Chips: The use of tracking chips is very common because you can place them either on the person or on an item that they will have with them.  Some chips will fit into a shoe, while others can be attached to a handbag or wallet. Again, it would be best if you used the object where the chip is located daily. 

Necklaces: There are safety necklaces that have been made to look like actual jewelry but contain a GPS tracking device.  This is particularly helpful if someone does not want the bulk or appearance of a tracking device on their body. It is only helpful if the individual wears it each day for the entire day. 

Key chains: There are special fob tracking devices that fit right on a keychain. Not only is this discrete, but it is a great way to ensure your parent always has the device with them.  If they leave the house, they will likely take a set of keys, even if they are not driving.

Floor mats:  A unique way to track the movement of your parents is to install smart mats in their homes. When weight is felt on the mat, a message is sent to you, letting you know the person is moving. If you place the mat by the front door, you will know when your parents leave the house. 

As you can see, there are many different types of GPS trackers that you can choose from.  All the trackers are unique and will not be best suited for everyone. Because of this, you want to make sure you consider exactly what your purpose in tracking is and how much movement you want to be aware of. 

GPS Watches

One of the most common devices used for a GPS tracker is a watch. Not only is it discrete, but it is also functional, which may make it a bit more appealing for your parents to wear.  Some other features of the watches make them a clear choice when it comes to tracking.

  • Immediately send an SOS message to contacts if needed.
  • Easy to use.

If your parents are tech-savvy enough, you can also sync most of the watches to their phones to allow ease of contact if needed.  Not to mention the watch can also have fitness components they may find useful. Here are some options when it comes to watches. 

Garmin Vivo fit 4:  This watch is appealing because not only does it provide a GPS option, but it is also a great fitness tracker if your parents are interested in that aspect.  You may also be interested in seeing how much movement they are doing during the day.  

Ticwatch Pro:  This watch is for men and is on the pricier side. However, it has strong GPS tracking capability.  The watch has the appearance of a typical analog watch, which may be appealing to some.  It does have the ability to track fitness as well as heart rate and sleep patterns. 

GPS Chips

If wearing a GPS watch is out of the question, you may wish to investigate using a tracking chip.  The great thing about tracking chips is the ability to place them in a location that they will remain secure and always with your parents.  These chips typically come in the form of keychains, so they are easy to take along. 

Tile: This is a unique GPS tracking chip because it is very low profile.  It comes in different sizes and can be attached to a keychain or even slipped into a wallet.  If your parents do not always take the same set of keys with them, it may be useful to slide this into a purse or wallet that is sure to travel with them. You can also use multiple tiles. 

Cube: This device is like the tile; however, it is not as flexible as the tile.  The cube is used as a keychain device. It can be attached to keys or a bag if needed. 

Vehicle Tracking Devices

If your parents are constantly on the go and their ability to navigate in the car is a worry for you, you may wish to install a GPS tracking device on their vehicle.  You must know that this device will only track the vehicle, not the person in the vehicle, so if you are concerned with the person’s movement, you will likely need an on-person tracker as well. 

Vyncs: This tracking device is installed directly in the car and allows you to track movement in real-time.  The only thing that may be viewed as a downfall with this device is the registration and maintenance fee assessed each month.  If the fee is not a concern, this is a way to track the vehicle movement of your parents. 

Optimus 2.0: The good thing about this tracking device is that it has a very strong magnet and can easily be installed in a car without fear of it coming dislodged. you can install it either inside or outside the car. 

Traki 2021: This device is unique because you can install it in a vehicle, or it can also be used as a key tag if you prefer.  Most users have found this useful placed inside the vehicle, either in a console or under the sun visor. 

In-Home Tracking

Perhaps you are more concerned about knowing when your parents leave or enter the house.  If this is the case, you may wish to invest in a floor mat activated by weight. This means that you will be alerted whenever your parents touch the mat with their feet to exit or enter the home.  

This would be useful if you have parents suffering from a high degree of dementia and are concerned for their safety when attempting to travel.  It would also be useful if you just wanted to know when they were leaving or coming to their home. 

What is the Battery Life of Most Tracking Devices?

Most tracking devices you use to track your loved ones will likely rely on a battery for power unless they are hard-wired to a vehicle.  If you are using a portable tracking device, you need to understand the battery life.  This will help avoid any panic or confusion if the battery happens to die and you do not see movement from your parents for a period.  

All GPS devices have different battery life, depending on the size of the battery and the amount of use the tracker gets.  However, most tracking devices typically have a battery life of at least four months with normal usage.  If your parents are traveling internationally or are extremely active, the battery life may not be quite as long.  It would be best to check your device to determine when battery replacements or changes need to occur. 

How do You Access the Tracking Device?

Most tracking devices that you would use to track the movement of your elderly parents would be easily accessible by either a smartphone or computer.  Because of this, you can have the location of your parents at your fingertips.  

You may question the security of a tracking device, and although you can track easily on a phone or computer, you will likely need a special code to see the exact device you are tracking.  Because of this, a random person cannot be checking in on the status of your parents as well.  

The benefit of having the tracking device so easily accessible is that multiple people can keep an eye on the tracking status.  For example, if you have siblings that are also concerned with the safety of your parents, they too can access the GPS via phone or online.  

Are the Tracking Devices Small?

When you think about tracking devices, your mind may go to many tv shows where you have seen them discretely hidden, so an individual is not aware of their presence.  While there are GPS devices that are that small, the device you use will be a bit easier to detect.  

Most tracking devices used are small enough to fit on a keychain or necklace. So, while they are not exactly invisible, they will not stand out as a GPS device but will instead have the appearance of a keychain or charm. To you, it may not be a big deal, but to your parents, they will likely appreciate the discrete appearance of the device. 

(Source: Sage Plan)

Tracking Services

Maybe you want to keep track of your parents but do not want the hassle of installing your GPS tracker.  If this is the case, you can use services to help keep track of your parents for medical emergencies. 

While services will not alert you to all the comings and goings of your parents, they will alert you if they have a medical emergency.  Not only will they alert you, but they will also alert the proper authorities, which should provide peace of mind. Some common tracking services are:

  • Mobile Help
  • Medical Alert
  • Lifeline
  • Life Alert
  • Unali Wear

One thing to be aware of with each of these options is the monthly fee associated with each. The fee is typically minimal, considering the protection you are providing to your loved ones.

Why Track Your Elderly Parents?

The idea of tracking anyone may seem a bit invasive, to say the least, especially your parents.  After all, they are the ones who raised you and spent years tracking you.  In your eyes, your parents are likely invincible.  However, when parents become elderly and begin to lose their faculties, tracking for safety may be your only option.

While it makes sense logistically, it is likely something that may make you feel a bit uncomfortable initially.  Some of the main reasons people choose to track their elderly parents are:

  • You can know what your parents are doing.
  • You can see where they are going.
  • You can get help to them quickly if needed. 

Sometimes, an individual chooses to track their elderly parents to offer a stronger peace of mind.  GPS tracking devices are especially helpful if you live away from your parents and want to offer safety and support when needed, maybe without waiting for them to ask you. 

When Should You Track Elderly Parents?

Perhaps you are wondering when exactly you should begin to worry about tracking the actions of your elderly parents.  While there is not a hard and fast rule to the best time to begin tracking, some factors can help your decision.

Mind function: As people age, it is common for their thought process to show a decline.  While this is not something that may seem concerning initially, it can become a safety hazard over time. The most rapid decline in mind function usually begins to occur at the age of 60, but it can begin to happen as early as 45. (Source: Dana Foundation) The most common issues with mind function will likely be.

  • Forgetfulness
  • Confusion
  • Inability to follow all steps in directions.
  • Getting lost when walking in the store or driving

Health Challenges: When people begin to age and reach the elderly classification, health challenges may become an issue. Most of the time, the health issues are easily treated. However, there will be times that they may begin to hinder day-to-day functioning and ultimately impact your parents when they are on the go. While not all health challenges are indicative of the necessity of tracking, some things to watch for are:

  • Mysterious bruises
  • Forgotten medication.
  • Hygiene
  • Missed medical appointments.

If you notice either of these things with your parents, it may be time to begin tracking them as they go about their travels or daily routine. Taking note of these things early on will likely save a lot of stress and worry in the long run. 

(Source: Mayo Clinic)

Is it Legal to Track Your Elderly Parents?

The idea of using a GPS tracker may, for lack of better terms, “freak you out” a bit.  The ability to monitor every movement an individual makes is less than invasive and may leave you feeling a bit uneasy and almost criminal.  

If you are using a tracking device to monitor your elderly parents, then you have likely cleared it with them first.  Because the use of a tracking device has been mutually agreed upon, it is completely legal and ethical. 

However, if you secretly place a tracking device on your parents and they do not have knowledge of it, you could face criminal charges if they found out and decided to take legal action.  Some states, not all, would view this as a significant invasion of privacy.  It makes keeping the lines of communication with your parents open and honest. 

(Source: Brickhouse Security)

What if Your Parents Travel Internationally?

If you are in the position of trying to keep track of parents that travel or live internationally, you will likely want to invest in a GPS device that transmits in real-time.  While all GPS trackers are satellite-based, there are some syncing differences when you track internationally.  This is something best-researched before your parents’ traveling. 

How You Should Present the Idea of Tracking to Your Elderly Parents

Deciding to keep a closer eye on your parents can be an emotional situation, not only for you but for your parents as well.  Remember losing independence is a very stressful experience, and relying on someone else to keep you safe can be very emotional for elderly parents. The most important thing you can do is allow them to keep their dignity throughout the process.

Keep them in the process: You may have your parent’s best interest in mind and likely have a solution that could be quite useful; you need to allow them to be a part of the process.  When you remove them from the decision-making process, you are essentially asserting your control and can make them feel vulnerable. 

The best thing you can do is present several different solutions and help choose the option that makes them feel the most comfortable. Remember, the thought of being monitored always may be a bit disconcerting initially. Allowing a voice in the decision-making process may help to make it an easier transition for all involved.

Listen: When making life-changing decisions for your parents, it is of the utmost importance that you listen to them.  Deciding to track your parents may not be easy because you understand the full reason behind the decision, but they may have questions and concerns that deserve your attention. 

Ask questions:  Ask your parents if they have questions or concerns about you monitoring them.  Perhaps they will think it is a fine idea, but they will likely have several questions or concerns. You must empathize with them and take the time to answer the questions they have.  If you do not know the answer to a particular question, it is okay, but make sure you find out the answer if possible.

Be proactive: Deciding to monitor your parents is a big decision that should not be taken lightly.  While it may seem like something in the distant future, it is wise to plan.  Being proactive not only allows time for extra research but also allows your parents time to prepare and think about the possibility of monitoring. While this will not make the transition seamless, it will likely help. 

You can spend a lot of time preparing to use devices to track your parents and have the most technologically advanced program, but the most important thing you can do at the end of the day is to be compassionate.  While you know this is for the safety of your parents, and they likely do, too, it is a transition that may take time to get used to. 

(Source: Childmind and Tracking the World)

Should You Feel Guilty for Tracking Your Elderly Parents?

One of the biggest things caregivers experience is the deep feeling of guilt, whether toward their immediate family that may seem to be neglected from time to time or toward the individual they care for.  When you decide to begin tracking your parents, you will likely experience some form of guilt. 

For as long as you can remember, your parents have been the ones tracking and taking care of you.  Now the tables are turned, and it can be quite uncomfortable and guilt-filled.  Taking on the role of protector and caregiver brings about a range of emotions, guilt being one of them. 

Allowing your parents to be actively involved in the decision-making process and having open and honest conversations can help you lessen, if not eliminate, the guilt you may be experiencing.  

(Source: Aging Care)

Are Tracking Devices Helpful?

You may be wondering if the hype surrounding tracking devices is worth it.  Like any technology, there are bound to be some glitches, but if you purchase a device that is specific to your needs, it will likely be a helpful tool.  

If you know that you want to track your parents’ movement as they travel around town or on trips, you want to make sure you choose a reliable GPS device that can be easily carried and will not be forgotten either at home or in a hotel. 

(Source: Senior Safety)

Fees With Tracking Devices

One big factor in the tracking device you choose to use will be the fee associated with it.  Some devices require an activation fee as well as a monthly maintenance fee.  Others require an initial activation fee and nothing beyond that. There may also be internet connection fees associated with the device. If your parents do not have access to the internet, you will want to make sure you can use the device you choose without it. 

Most Chip style trackers do not require much in the way of fees, but vehicle GPS trackers will often require a fee between $12 and $30 per month.  If you do not want to add an extra cost to your monthly budget, you may want to look for a more cost-effective tracker that will meet your needs. 

Final Thoughts

It is not logistically difficult to track aging parents. However, it can be emotionally taxing.  When deciding to track your elderly parents that are on the go, it is important to approach it with compassion.  Your parents have been independent for a long time, and sometimes just the thought of someone, even their beloved child taking control can be stressful. There are many options for tracking that is discrete and will fit with whatever your need may be. 

Content Disclaimer

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this Blog article are not intended to amount to advice, and you should not rely on any of the contents of this Blog article. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this Blog article. OccupationaltherapyBlog disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this Blog article. 


I'm a Neurological Occupational Therapist and Founder of HT Neuro Rehab an Holistic & Person-Centred Adult Rehabilitation in London. I"m fully registered with the Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) and the Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOT). I have founded HT Neuro Rehab to provide clinical Occupational Therapy services to adults with neurological conditions, brain injuries, major trauma, upper limb retraining and rehabilitation, Prolonged Disorders of Consciousness (PDoC) and Functional Neurological Disorders (FND). My practice provides support, training, and guidance to both the patient and their families and caregivers. My goal is to enable each patient to achieve their personal ability, mobility, and independence goals while cultivating a long-term support network that is capable and prepared to engage in the rehabilitation journey.

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