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Nine Technology Tips to Help Alzheimer’s Patients and Caregivers

By Peter DiMaria

Alzheimer's Care, Elder Care, Family Caregiving for dementia patients?  There's an app for that.

New technologies have changed –and in many ways improved– the way we connect and understand the world. So, it is no surprise that you can find some cool tech toys and tablet apps designed specifically for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and caregivers. Some of these will challenge their abilities, some will help them organize and others may bring them a pleasant experience, like music, TV, classic movies and cognitive games.

A tablet to be used together with or under the supervision of a caregiver could go a long way in offering useful tools and some cognitive games for dementia patients.

Here’s some gadgets and apps for iPad or android tablets, that can bring activities for development or tools to help in the management of symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Some are good for the patient, some are great for their caregivers. And some could help both.

  • Mindmaps

There are many free apps that help to do mind maps. Using one to build the family tree is a great way to exercise memory and help the patient to stay connected with those around and with frequent family visitors. Mind maps also help to make “to do lists” and a nightly journal of the activities of the day.

  • Music apps: Pandora, Spotify, Google Music, etc.

Music from world times is great for elderly care

Connect your loved one to the time in their lives they loved the most, through building their own stations and playlists on radio apps that allow you to customize your experience building playlists and rating music taste. Alzheimer’s patients love repetition, as it helps them to stay connected. If you use wireless speakers, you may enhance the experience even more.

  • Movies: Netflix, HBO, Amazon.

Classic movies can help dementia patients reminisce

Several apps have a considerable Classic Movies catalog that will help your loved one remind artists, songs, fashion, cars, and stories from the time when the movie was in the theaters;

  • MindMate

Available for iPad, this is a great tool for those with Alzheimer's or some other type of dementia. It gives them reminders for when to do daily chores like taking pills, brushing teeth, and eating. It also has eight different fun and interactive brain games to help increase users' cognitive abilities. Finally, it brings advice about exercise and nutrition, and information about dementia. It works well for dementia patients and their caregivers. The goal is to help keep people independent and active for as long as possible, while having fun. The Tools section has a photo timeline tool which is great to reminisce. List-making applications helps to keep the patient organized.

  • Cognitive Games apps: Lumosity, AARP and Games for the Brain, Dakim, Clevermind, Peak.

Although some recent research shows that there is no correlation between playing these games and improving mental capacity in patients with Alzheimer’s, some games may be fun and, therefore, useful for Alzheimer’s patients. If anything, they could give you some idea of how fast they are loosing their cognitive abilities and which of these abilities they are being able to keep. Most of these apps use traditional tasks that measure cognitive abilities and some of their own creation. Others offer short daily workouts and personalized games that will adapt to each user's skill level and help track progress using in-depth performance analytics. Most of these games apps are free and will challenge the player’s creativity, emotion control, mental agility, problem solving, attention, memory, and language.   

 

  • Alzheimer’s Disease Pocketcard

Another free tool, very practical for caregivers and their supervisors. Helps physicians and other health care professionals care for patients with Alzheimer’s disease, in their place of care.

It contains clinically relevant information on Alzheimer’s and tools that will help clinicians assess their patients and interview caregivers. It discusses the top 10 signs of AD, the latest information on detection, diagnosis, and management of Alzheimer’s disease (both pharmacotherapeutic and non-pharmacotherapeutic strategies), current diagnostic criteria, and more. It also brings education and support packets for patients and caregivers, and interactive tools. The app is a collaborative effort between Börm Bruchmeier and the Alzheimer's Association.

  • Talking Point Forum

Alzheimer’s Society online support and discussion forum for family caregivers. With this app, you can read other caregivers experiences, ask for advice, share information, join in discussions, share your story and, most important, feel supported. It is always good to connect with others out there who are going –or have gone– through the same experiences you are.

  • Precision Medicine Alzheimer's

This app was designed by Precision Medicine Initiative, a Federal Government program that aims to increase research and improve information about many aspects of healthcare.  While this app offers cognitive activities for Alzheimer’s patients, it collects data to research which of these are more efficient. As researchers learn more about “what works” and “what doesn’t work”, better applications can be developed to help current and future patients.

The app uses HealthKit and integrates with the Health app to build a database of Alzheimer's and dementia research. Patients and their families may choose which information they wish to share and the app creates standardized files users can then email to any Precision Medicine Alzheimer's disease projects they want to support.

  • Direct Link: life at the touch of a button

There are several devices to help your loved ones to live independently, at their homes, for a longer period of time. Here’s some:

-             Fall sensors: they will trigger an alarm in a monitoring station. The monitors will then call the patients home, a family member, a neighbor or 911, depending on the response they get;

-             Emergency buttons: these allow the person to speak directly with the monitoring personnel. Once they activate the button, they will receive a call through the equipment. The monitor will ask them what help they need, if any;

-             Medicine dispensers and reminders: these devices release medicine according to a schedule. An alarm alerts the patient, who then has to pick up the pill and take it. IF he fails to do so, a member of the family is immediately informed.

-             Smoke detectors: very useful for people with mobility limitations or hearing impairment. They will sound an alarm in the home, but also in the monitoring station, which will follow the protocol until it is clear that the client is safe.

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