Technology to Help Alzheimer’s Patients Age-in-Place Longer

According to the World Health Organization, 50 million people world-wide are living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. As researchers continue their tireless efforts to find a cure, technology for Alzheimer’s is helping people affected by the disease who wish to stay in their homes as long as possible, and their caregivers, address safety, quality of life, and communication concerns.

“Technology has the potential to help preserve independence, or at least maintain it, for many, many more years than is currently possible,” says Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, director of the neurocognitive disorders program at Duke University Health System. Examples of Alzheimer’s technology include home sensors, communications and personal navigational devices, and smartphone apps that I will describe in greater detail below.

Examples of Alzheimer’s Technology

Much of the focus of Alzheimer’s technology is to monitor Alzheimer’s patients to ensure they are safe and cared for, and to sustain their social and family contacts. Here are some examples:

Monitoring:

Home sensors and video technology can help in the management and treatment of Alzheimer’s, tracking changes in patients’ wandering, agitation and circadian rhythm, as well as monitoring for safety. Sensors can track a patient’s movements; use of appliances and lights; opening and closing of doors; water usage and more.

  • Video monitoring: An effective monitoring product that is available today is called the Nest Cam, which offers 24/7 live streaming. The Piper NV is slightly more expensive than the Nest Cam, but allows free Internet cloud storage. And the Simplicam, is the least expensive of the three, but the video quality isn’t quite as good. These start at $150. Amazon also has a lengthy list of video monitoring systems that are less expensive than those listed above. Be sure to check the ratings and do your research before purchasing one to make sure it meets your needs.
  • Sensors: Smart sensors can be used for a variety of monitoring purposes, including sleep monitoring, activity tracking, medication reminders, water intake, and door alerts. Sensors can also help track seniors’ intake of water, monitor their homes, and even save seniors and caregivers trips outside their homes by automatically reordering their favorite groceries and cleaning supplies. Popular sensors for seniors include the Aeyesafe Monitoring Alert System, a sound and thermal monitoring system that provides current and historical data while protecting privacy. Alarm.com Wellnesscan alert caregivers of abnormal behavior patterns, including leaving the home at odd hours or wandering, in addition to light, temperature, and security settings. Lively Mobile works to connect caregivers and seniors by an emergency response button that will alert caregivers of an issue. This sensor also has fall detection, is waterproof and easy for seniors to wear. Read more about sensors in this Forbes Magazine article.
  • Wandering: Safe Wander offers discreet sensor alerts for caregivers via cell phone when it detects motion out of a bed or chair. This is a major concern for caregivers whose loved ones may be getting up at night undetected and are at a risk for falls.  The sensor is waterproof and does not require charging. Alzheimers.net offers 10 additional technological tools and apps for wandering.
  • Medical Alert: A new Apple Watch app aims to keep senior family members safe. Called simply “Alert,” the app works as a panic button of sorts, allowing seniors or others to contact a caregiver for help with the touch of a button. The idea is to have the app mimic a traditional panic button.

 Communication:

  • Apps: Promenade is an iPad app designed for family members and caregivers that can help stimulate conversation, encourage reminiscence, and make personal visits more rewarding and engaging. Promenade presents groups of photographs based on user selected topics. Every topic is accompanied by a list of conversation based questions, as well as related topic suggestions to ensure there’s always something to talk about.
  • Amazon Echo Show: Amazon Echo Show is a great way to communicate with out-of-town grandchildren, access music (including album covers and lyrics), watch recipe videos, set timers and alarms, and add items to your shopping list, and much more.
  • Echo and Alexa: Echo and Alexa devices play music, answer questions, read the news, check the weather, set alarms, control compatible smart home devices, call almost anyone, and more. You can ask Alexa to control compatible smart lights, switches, sensors, door locks, and more. Echo Plus also includes a built-in temperature sensor. Google and Apple offer similar products.
  • Future Call: Future Call, an “old school” visual phone is also helpful for those who may have difficulty remembering phone numbers, or who may find dialing multiple numbers too difficult. The phone holds up to 10 numbers and can be individualized with photos of each person associated with each person that gets programmed into the phone. Future Call also has an emergency button that can be disabled if needed.
  • Brainware headset (not available yet): Earlier this year, a California high school student named Grant Sheen wrote software that can detect if an Alzheimer’s patient wants to eat, rest, and more. The software is used with a brainwave-reading headset that reports needs in real time. He won the Davidson Fellows Scholarship for his invention. “His work can be used to bridge the communication barrier between Alzheimer’s patients and their caretakers,” his award states, “and gives caretakers the ability to understand the needs of Alzheimer’s patients.” Read more here.

Smart Home:

The thought of your home being completely automated used to be unheard of. Now, it is a reality. Smart homes and smart products are popular because they offer more convenience and security for you and your family. The website, smarthome.com, explains more and offers all the technology to turn your home into a smart home in one place. If you are remodeling or building a new home, you can find a contractor who specializes in smart homes to make the necessary accommodations.

Assessing Emotional Well-being (in progress):

Induct, a British-based consortium of researchers who study technology for dementia care, is investigating the potential usefulness of a number of devices, including an experimental smartphone app that attempts to improve the emotional states of people with dementia. The app is designed to launch itself several times a day and assess the person’s general mood or well-being by asking how he or she is feeling at that moment, says Martin Orrell, the head of Induct and director of the Institute of Mental Health at the University of Nottingham. The goal is to examine not just what people are doing, but how they are coping. If a person is feeling down, the device could suggest activities the person likes that could help distract them or make them feel better. Read more about Induct and what they are doing here.

When Aging-in-Place is no Longer the Best Option

Most people want to stay in their home for as long as possible. However, if despite the technology that is available, you or a loved one cannot live independently and are showing signs that living alone is a strain, it may be time to consider other alternatives.

Whether the outcome is in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care in the future, it is always wise to plan ahead. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection is the process of protecting assets from having to be spent down in connection with entry into assisted living or nursing home care, while also helping ensure that you and your loved ones get the best possible care and maintain the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Please contact whenever you’re ready to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation:

Elder Care Attorney Fairfax: 703-691-1888
Elder Care Attorney Fredericksburg: 540-479-143
Elder Care Attorney Rockville: 301-519-8041
Elder Care Attorney DC: 202-587-2797

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