Six New Technology Innovations for Dementia Care
From wearable devices to adorable robot pups, new tech can help to improve the lives of people with dementia and their care partners.
Technological innovation is moving at a nearly unfathomable speed — and tech for dementia care is no exception to this. It can feel overwhelming, even obstructive, to introduce a new tech device or service to your care circle. Fortunately, the entrepreneurs, researchers and caregivers behind the latest tech for dementia care are dedicated to ensuring their solutions support the challenges people living with dementia face, first and foremost, but also that the tech is malleable enough to work in unique situations and settings.
Here, we highlight six recent tech offerings that can make a positive impact on the lives of people with dementia and their caregivers.
MoviWear offers three wearable devices (two smartwatches and a pendant) that give the wearer a range of functions to support their health and well-being. The devices can connect caregivers with their loved ones, monitor heart rate variability and can alert health-care professionals of changes in conditions.
It also has fall detection, supports medication adherence and can alert loved ones if the wearer wanders using GPS geo-fencing technology.
“We want to allow people to live their lives as they are used to living them, without their loved ones having to interfere, as much as possible,” says MoviWear founder Jacob Moshinsky.
Moshinsky, a software developer who worked for years as a product manager at Telus and Rogers Communications, created MoviWear after a tragic incident involving his great uncle.
His family had all gathered on a Sunday for brunch, but quickly became concerned when his great uncle did not show. It was eventually discovered that his uncle had passed away in his home.
“The doctors said he had passed away between 24 and 48 hours beforehand. So, it was a really sad situation and it’s the reason why I came up with this technology,” Moshinsky says.
His mission with MoviWear is to empower elderly Canadians to self-manage their well-being and tackle the barriers to the uptake of technology-enabled care for both the wearer and their care team.
“This technology is here to assist people, to give peace of mind to their families, and to give better results to the doctors and nurses who are monitoring them,” Moshinsky says. “It will ultimately give older people a better life and allow them to stay in their own homes longer.”
"Customer feedback has been nothing short of inspirational, with family members expressing how helpful it has been to have the discreet GPS tracker in their lives."
Moshinsky says Moviwear’s software is continually learning as more and more users adopt the devices. He sees a day when physicians can readily rely on the health data Moviwear collects and hopes to keep the tech in line with the heights of what is possible — he’s looking into the possibility of future editions being charged via the user’s sweat.
“We’re getting to an era where there’s so much information available to us,” Moshinsky says. “That’s the idea behind this: it’s an all-in-one device that lets us monitor our parents.”
For situations where a loved one may not want to wear — or be able to always remember to wear — a smart device, there is the GPS SmartSole.
“It’s the world’s first completely discreet, invisible tracking device,” says Patrick Bertagna, CEO of GTX Corp, GPS SmartSole’s parent company. “That’s really its big value proposition — you’re not upsetting the wearer, whether they have Alzheimer’s, dementia or autism.”
GPS SmartSole is a GPS tracker sealed inside a water-resistant shoe insert. The inserts can be trimmed to fit perfectly into a loved one’s shoes, and the discreet tracking devices can be set up using geozones that alert caregivers via email or text if their loved one enters or exits a designated geographic area.
Bertagna says the device was originally developed for parents to track their children, but the demand quickly shifted to people caring for loved ones that wander.
“We soon realized there were millions of people living with Alzheimer’s, dementia and autism who wander, and so the market kind of dictated this is where the product could do the most good,” he says.
Customer feedback has been nothing short of inspirational, Bertagna says, with family members expressing how helpful it has been to have the discreet GPS tracker in their lives.
“We’ve received numerous letters over the years from people saying just how much of a game-changer or a live-saver this has been for them,” he says.
Robot pets as a senior care tool, and robot dogs specifically, have been researched for more than a decade. The furry friends, made by several different groups, have been shown in numerous studies to combat loneliness, lower blood pressure, and decrease a person’s chances of developing heart disease.
What makes Tombot’s pets unique is that, in 2019, the California-based company turned to Hollywood for help in their creation. Partnering with the legendary Jim Henson’s Creature Shop for artistic design and prototype development, the team focused on building a life-like robot pet that was fit for the big screen, with sophisticated software controls and more than a dozen sensors to make it autonomous and fully interactive.
The result: Jennie, an adorable, golden Labrador retriever robo-dog designed to emulate a real puppy’s appearance and behaviour. Jennie responds to where and how she’s being touched and comes equipped with voice recognition software that listens to commands and reacts accordingly.
Tombot is planning to produce different breeds and feline versions of its robot pets in the future, but for now, only Jennie is available on a second round of pre-orders (the initial round sold out quickly).
Perhaps most ground-breaking of all is the Tombot’s price-point. The second round, or litter, of robotic emotional support animals can be reserved now for $399 USD, which may seem steep at first glance, but other robotic pets in this price range have way fewer capabilities, while those that do have the ability to update software using a smartphone (like Tombot does) can cost upwards of $1,000 USD. Visit tombot.com for more information.
Karie by AceAge
Karie (created by Ontario-based health care technology company AceAge Inc.) is part of a growing offering of home health appliances that organizes and delivers medication. It uses single-load action and delivers pills with one-button control.
The pouch-packaging can be administered by a pharmacist, and once loaded, the medication management system takes on prescription scheduling, dosing and reminding for the user when it’s time to take their meds.
When it is time to take the medication, the device lights up and makes an audible signal until the user presses the button and the correct dose is dispensed. The device will also alert a caregiver using smartphone technology if the medication has not been dispensed by the user.
In addition to reducing the burden on caregivers by taking out the stress of medication non-adherence, Karie also boasts cutting-edge security features, including face recognition, early dose prevention (bolt to countertop, lock-in cartridge), cartridge mismatch notification, and 72 hours of battery backup.
Developed by a global team of four women with backgrounds in biotechnology and elder care, Alz Calls lets family members be there for their loved one 24/7 by creating a chatbot version of themselves. The chatbot uses artificial intelligence (AI) software, much like the AI software that banks and airlines use.
To set up the chatbot, the family member simply records their voice replying to various prompts such as “Hello” or “Who is this?” or any other question a loved one may frequently ask. When the person living with dementia calls the family member’s Alz Calls contact number, which can be stored in their home or smartphone, the chatbot will answer and conduct a conversation.
If the bot cannot answer a question, it defaults to one of several conversation-ending phrases like “I better get going, I love you.” The family member can keep adding responses to new queries, extending Alz Calls ability to keep the conversation going.
Memory Lane Games
Memory Lane Games is an app that’s inspired by reminiscence therapy. It turns memories into fun, simple-to-play quiz games on music, animals, geography, history, food, and many other topics.
Created in partnership with Hospice Isle of Man and Live at Home (a charity group also based in Isle of Man), the app was designed specifically for people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
The app’s key advantage over traditional trivia apps is it offers games based on the user’s location, sparking nostalgia by quizzing them on local landmarks and history. You can also play games based on places you used to live.
The app also promises to soon allow personalization of quiz games, whether you want to quiz your loved one on their past or what they had for breakfast that morning.
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