Alzheimer’s Disease: Advancing Home Care in a Digital Age

My Story:

Christmas 2008, I had just turned 10 years old and my grandmother had almost burned down their house after leaving the oven on before leaving for Christmas dinner at our house. This was the first sign that my 89 year old grandmother’s mind wasn’t as sharp as it used to be. In the following months there were several more incidents just like this one that signified an onset of dementia in her brain, from getting in her car and forgetting where she was going to forgetting to eat/cook meals. Over the next 8 years her disease would continue to progress to the point she requires around the clock hospice-like home care. The beginning of 2017 marked Mimi’s progression into late stage, severe Alzheimer’s. Over the course of her battle with Alzheimer’s we as her family have struggled with the emotional and sometimes physical tolls of being her caretakers. From a day to day standpoint, Alzheimers is a very difficult disease to deal with as a patient, however aware or unaware they are of their condition,  as it is for a caretaker. Even though the patient may be unaware the emotional strains of the disease exacts on the caretakers can be the most stressful part of the disease.

The Why:

Alzheimers and other dementia related diseases, despite being a heavily researched topic, have no current medical cure. Most treatment courses involve long term care focused on quelling symptoms and maximizing patient comfort. Even though the patient is not cognitively aware, the disease often has profound negative impacts on caretakers. The focus for the My Memories app was to alleviate some of the stress and guest work out of the home care for dementia patients by care takers. The app focuses on streamlining home care in order to bring it into the 21st century with an easy to use IOS interface.

The Development:

To develop the app I used a HTML app development platform called Ionic Creator. Simple to use, It allowed me to created the streamlined interface I had envisioned for  My Memories. The app incorporates a schedule tracker, medicine log, My Memories page, and location page. Below are examples of each of these pages and how they work.

The Digital Solution: My Memories

The goal of the app was to provide a more streamline platform by which home care of dementia patients could be provided by caretakers. This idea is carried over into the first thing you see when you open the app, an easy to navigate “main menu” of sorts from which all of the app’s pages can be quickly accessed. I wanted this app to have a clean, refined look far removed from the composition books used by most caretakers, that are messy and often make it hard to find the needed information. And it all starts with the “main menu”.

The first page that you are able to select is the Location page. This page is integrated into an RFID tag and RFID gate/receiver system set up within the patient’s residence that allows a care taker to effortlessly know the location of the patient with one click of a button. The patient wears an RFID tag on their person in the form of either a bracelet or necklace, and each room in the house is “gated” with RDIF receivers. This system allows the caretaker to quickly know the location of the patient within the house without constantly hovering over the patient. This system also frees the caretaker to perform other duties within the house, without ever loosing sight of the patient’s whereabouts.

Next on the “Main Menu” is the Memories page, dedicated to well, memories. A common problem for dementia patients is anxiety. Not being able to remember the smallest detail, can cause a patient to have an anxiety attack that can be hard to quell. The Memories page serves as a FAQs page for a non-family member care taker who may not be familiar with the patient’s entire background. A caretaker can efficiently access the necessary information to answer common questions asked by the patient and avoiding any unnecessary anxiety.

The following page is the Medicine Log, which provides a log of medicine for the various caretakers of the patient. As simple as it sounds, its always important to keep track of what medicine has been given to the patient, when it was given, and the dosage. Each day the log resets, and the previous day’s log is saved and stored in a time searchable database within the app. The comments section of the page allows a caretaker to amend any dosage amount, or any other remarks that might prove useful to other caregivers. The Medicine Log eliminates another area of the messy, handwritten, composition books often used to track patient care and replaces it with a more efficient, streamlined, and easy to use solution.

The final page in the My Memories app is the Schedule Tracker, which like the Medicine Log page is pretty much described by its title. The schedule tracker allows caregivers to accurately and consistently log the day to day activities and habits of their patient. Routine is a crucial part of home care for dementia patients, routine gives them a sense of normalcy lessening the chance of confusion. It is also allows caretakers to know when the patient last had a meal/snack, or the last time medicine was administered. And they are able to easily log this information, instead of writing it down or communicating it via word of mouth.  Like the medicine log, the page resets everyday and the previous day is then logged in a time searchable database within the app that allows for easy recall.

The goal for this app was to bring home care of dementia patients into the 21st century. This project was based upon my own life experience with my grandmother, but the same concepts can be applied to any number of home care situations. I wanted the My Memories app to be practical, efficient and easy to use to ensure a wide user base. I believe that the most important outcome of this app will be bringing home care into the 21st century where data is constantly collected, logged and stored.  If you have any suggestions for me or possible improvements, please don’t hesitate to submit a comment down below.

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