According to the Alzheimer's Association, 47 million people all over the globe are living with Alzheimer's and other dementias. As researchers continue their tireless efforts to find a cure, technology for Alzheimer's and creative approaches are helping people affected by the dementia-related diseases address safety, quality of life, and communication.
In honor of Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month in June, we sought out great technology that is making life a little easier for people with Alzheimer's and dementia and their loved ones.
Technology for Alzheimer's: Robotic Cats and Visual Cues
Memory Picture Phone: This visual phone is 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. The Memory Picture Phone also has an emergency button that can be disabled if needed. Cost: $49.95 from The Alzheimer's Store.
Monitoring and Wander Detection
Safe Wander: We reviewed this creation of fifteen-year-old Kenneth Shinozuka last year and love to see that his idea has quickly evolved into a unique monitoring device. This discreet sensor alerts 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. Cost: $249 for startup kit that contains the sensor, connective gateway and app from Safe Wander.
Quality of Life
Joy for All Companion Pets: At first glance, this looks like a toy for children, but kids of all ages will adore this animatronic, cuddly, purring cat. The Hasbro Joy for All Companion Pets are a great way to share meaningful two-way interaction with a loved one. The responsive cats purr, meow and even roll over for belly rubs.
The built-in sensors respond to touch and movement mimicking the responses of a real-life friendly cat without the litter box. The Joy for All Companion Pet has been a huge hit in our household; children, adults, grandparents and the family dog are all smiles when “Fred” comes to life. Cost: $99.99 from Hasbro or Amazon, three different colors to choose from.
Smart Medical Alert Systems
Apple Watch: We have been hoping to see this for some time. Coming Fall 2016, the Apple Watch is being updated with a variety of features, most important of which are the new safety and emergency response features. Apple announced that the updated watch will come with an SOS feature that lets a user call for help directly from the watch anywhere in the world. The feature can also send a message to emergency contacts alerting them to location and situation.
The watch will also show the user's medical info like age, allergies and other pertinent health information entered by the user. While not well suited for those in the late stages of cognitive decline, this would be useful tech for early-stage users who are mobile and active. Now, if Apple could just add fall detection, geo-fence alerts and make it waterproof, it just might be the perfect medical alert system. Cost: Ranges, depending on bands, case size, $299+ from Apple. [Update: The Apple Series 2 watch is now waterproof.]
In-Home Smart Sensors
Silver Mother: Smart sensors that can be used for a variety of monitoring purposes. We trialed Silver Mother in the home lab for sleep monitoring, activity tracking, medication reminders, water intake and door alerts. Silver Mother is a simple, unobtrusive way to monitor patterns and habits, as well as to be alerted when changes to these patterns could indicate a problem. The “mother” hub plugs into a router since it requires connection to the internet, pairs with her Motion Cookies (sensors) that attach to the object to be monitored and then sends all the details to the app.
The sensors can be individually programmed to track specific activities, the setup is very simple and only takes a few minutes for each cookie. Once the sensors are connected and placed around the home, the hub and sensors work silently to gather data about their particular assignment. The sensors use replaceable CR2016 batteries and can last 4-12 months depending on use.
Silver Mother is compatible with Nest and can also use IFFT allowing it to control hundreds of products and apps. For example, when medications are taken, register time in Google calendar or when the temperature drops too low, adjust the thermostat. The possibilities are endless, see more examples of how Silver Mother and IFFT work together here. Cost: $299 includes one hub and 4 sensors, from Amazon.
Advances in technology for Alzheimer's ensure that we will see these products improve year after year and continue to build on what they already do well. As always, we strive to bring you the latest and greatest in senior care technology, if there is an innovative product we missed, please let us know in the comments below.