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Dementia care technologies -- another look

Technologies to keep those with dementia safe at home.   How you ask the question changes the answer. A few weeks ago, I revised my thinking about dementia care technology. The catalyst:An interviewer with the Cincinnati Enquirer called me a few weeks ago for a story she was doing -- and asked me about the technologies that could enable those with Alzheimer's or other dementias to remain safely in their homes.  When asked the question that way, I realized that there were quite a few and worth summarizing and referencing more of the vendors in this blog post -- none were in the article to the degree that a previous blog posts on caegiving tech and Azheimer's tracking technologies (2009). So here is an expansion on the Cincinnati Enquirer's published story including statements from the interview/article and expansion:

Memory aids. These include "talking clocks and talking pillboxes, which remind people to take their medications." These are gadgets, of course, not systems (i.e. integrated with response centers and care processes). But for some caregivers and recipients -- they may be just enough. At the low end of price and functionality, search and you will find a talking clock that can be set with 4 medication reminders per day and from the same reseller (MedCenter) integrate it with the pill dispensing unit to create a talking pill box.  "As smart phones gain popularity, families can buy apps that remind loved ones when it's time to take their medication or bathe." Smart phone apps for reminders have been around for a while, going back to multi-mode OnTimeRx, RememberItNow and simple reminder apps.  These days, there are far too many to count or mention.

Assistive devices that prevent wandering. The article included "sensors that can be placed on walls or on doors to alert caregivers if someone opens a door." So these include simple door sensors, simple bed sensor pads that alert if a person gets out of bed, or Vuance Companion -- an RFID tagged wearable device for home use or 'WanderGuard' style products (typically in facilities) that activate an alarm, shut a door that has been pushed open, and/or alert designated responders -- aka 'departure alert' systems.

Assistive devices that help locate people who are lost. "These systems are small GPS units that can be carried or worn to help caregivers and emergency services personnel track people who may have wandered away from home." Beyond sensors, it may be appropriate to set up a Geofence with something like TrueTracker, SecuraTrac, ActiveCare or AFrameDigital that alerts if a person has traveled outside of a customized zone. "The Alzheimer's Association's Comfort Zone system includes a special unit that can be placed in a vehicle to allow caregivers to track where people with dementia are driving."

Monitoring systems "Some include video monitoring and can track a person's activity within the home and alert a caregiver or 911 if a person has fallen. Sensors can be placed in a bed to show whether a person is getting up at inappropriate times - a sign of wandering or restlessness." Vendor options range from bed sensor pads that can be simple or they integrated into a full monitoring system, such as WellAWARE which promotes its ability to track sleep disturbances and therefore predict problems or Healthsense, which has similar capabilities.

Caution -- this information is for reference and does not imply recommendation or endorsement.  For any such product or technology solution, please a) ask for references of satisfied dealers and customers -- especially important for the higher priced options; b) Search the Internet for negative mention or reported problems; c) ask about technical limitations; d) make sure the product can be returned if it does not work as stated and e) contact a local professional or even the Alzheimer's Association, tell them what you are considering.  They may just point you toward ComfortZone.  And one more thing -- after contacting, they tell me that there is no predicted date for availability of the so-called GPS shoe, so forget about that.

For those who may have serious doubts about any of these options (or great experiences), please comment.



In looking at the tracking devices noted in the article, I checked the TrueTracker ($458 plus minimum of $46/mo fee) and SecuraTrac ($198 plus minimum of $18.88 per month fee) systems and was disappointed that cheaper systems were not mentioned. For example, the Community Sidekick software is in the App Store for $9.99, and uses existing iPhone or Android phones and service plans to send location data at a user-selected frequency--no extra monthly fees.

Thanks for the feedback.

And for those with dementia, I wonder what percentage have iPhones? Or Androids?

There is no way my mom can even figure out a cell phone, let alone and Iphone or an Android... sad!

I assume there would be a device that attaches to the patient that would send a signal to the caregivers iPhone or Android device. It would not be necessary for the patient to own a phone or know how to use one.

It appears that everyone thinks of the disease as one that if wandering can be eliminated they can stay at home forever...these are middle stage problems....when late stages arrive these problems will be minor unfortunately...losing ability to walk is a common late stage symptom...

Agreed -- most if not all dementia-related tech is for early and at most mid stages. 

The GPS shoes are in the final production stage and scheduled for commercial release in the next 90 days. This is important and potentially live saving technology. As paranoia is a principle manifestation of Alzheimer’s Disease, caregivers and senior care professionals have struggled for years with technology that those afflicted will remove (up to the point of injury) simply because it is an unfamiliar object placed upon them. The shoes also include geo-fencing capabilities, allowing wandering incidents to be alerted and the wearers location identified within as little as 60 seconds.

The GPS Smart Shoe™ has received national and international media from CNN to CBS to The Discovery Channel and numerous industry analysts and organizations are carefully tracking its progress. We’re excited about the planned product launch and looking forward to offering this much needed safety solution.

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