Alzheimer’s Disease iPhone app

My father and Barb's father suffered from Alzheimer's Disease and died from  related illnesses. But I am no kind of expert on the disease. Please keep that in mind as you follow along with this post.

I checked the iPhone apps store and didn't find anything like what I'm going to try to describe. Probably a good reason for that. And the application I'm imagining would be targeted at those in the early and mid stages of the disease. And if they refused to keep the phone with them or couldn't remember to take it, game over. But let's assume they're on board.

The iPhone app would launch whenever the phone was turned on. It would be programmed with information about the patient (for lack of a better term).

The map would have pins for the patient's favorites spots (corner market, hair salon, friends, etc). If they clicked on one of the pins, a small bubble would appear with the person photo and some info about them. A video link would play a short video clip ("Hello, Mrs. Johnson. Steve Mays here. Looking forward to your next visit.") and, of course a phone number to call the person.

The patient and family would decide on a radius that covered most of the places they were likely to go. Let's say 20 miles. If they go outside that radius, the phone wakes up and a familiar (?) voice says something along the lines of: "Hi, mom. It's me, Janice. Please give me a call. Just hit the green button.")

This repeats a couple of times and if ignored, the iPhone begins calling family and –if necessary– the authorities.

My father would go to morning coffee and on the way home make a wrong turn and just get confused about where he was. With an app like this he could have turned it on (maybe by just shaking it?) and seen the blue pin for where he is and the red pin for home. Or just say, "Help" or "I'm lost" and get assistance.

And before you point out "if they can't work the Tivo…" Remember I'm talking about people who grew up with mobile phones and –eventually– iPhones. We're gonna be freaked if we don't have the things in bath robes.

If this already exists, send me a link. I'd love to see it. If you have ideas for features I didn't think of, share those in the comments.

And if you are some brilliant young app developer and can make this thing a reality. You've got my blessing. You might even donate porcedes to Alzheimers Assocaition.

15 thoughts on “Alzheimer’s Disease iPhone app

  1. Thanks, John. Just watched your YouTube video. Doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles I imagined in my original post but it works and it’s real. Bravo. Would love to hear from anyone using this app.

  2. I like your ideas! I am leading a small team of researchers that are in the process of examining uses of mobile computing technology in neurorehabilitation, including developing custom software for the iPhone. Our initial work is in traumatic brain injury, but it is likely that much of the work would be applicable to people with dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease. That’s an area I’ve worked in previously, so will certainly be interested to extend the research into that area in the future as well. Thought you might be interested to know a little of what we’re up to.

    In return, I’d be most interested to hear from other people who are using devices like the iPhone and Android phones to compensate for cognitive difficulties, either as end users, family members, clinicians or researchers. I’m keen to provide information to other people on the options that are out there, and may for instance be able to link to your work from our website, or even interview you for the Synapse Voices podcast! Get in touch via our website (click my name above this post…)

  3. My mom who is in her midstages of alzheimers sits in her computer room and plays games all day on her computer. I basically take care of her when needed. Her computer is old and she became very upset to learn we needed to get a new one. I suggested an iPad thinking it may be more simple for her and maybe since it is mobile she would at least get out of her computer room! I took her to best buy to try it out and she liked it so here I am trying to set it up for her. I can’t find her exact games she is use to playing daily and not sure how she will take that. Also was hoping for apps to help her with this disease in some way. So far found nothing! Anyone trying to develop something and needing insight or to bounce ideas off of, I would love to help! You can contact me

  4. I’m glad to see other people are looking at the Alz (and caregiver) market when it comes to iPhone apps. We use ATT Family Maps on my dads phone as a backup (even though he has shown no inclination to wander), but I have tons of ideas for apps taht coupld be useful either to the patient or their loved ones!

    I know this post is a year old, but just wanted to encourage you to keep this project going!

  5. John,

    I run a blog dedicate to gadgets and the elderly and was wondering if you would be willing to write a guest post about your idea for an android wandering monitor? Something like that could be incredibly useful if it was done right, and I’d love to help get the information out there and the discussion going.

  6. Hi! I’d found your discussion looking for information about alzheimer.

    We have an application in the Apple Store, named “rescatame”, that can be already used to do the iPhone call the family with the position of a patient who has no returned at home in a certain period of time.

    We are thinking about specializing it in the alzheimer’s disease care. I would like you to review our application, please, and to give us your opinion.


  7. Hi Interesting discussion.
    I’m planning to present a course in cell phone programming (Android rather than iPhone) at a summer camp for bright kids. An Alzheimers wandering monitor is our project.

    Does the specification make sense? Anyone want to help me specify it further. I am interested i’m interested in making a proper professional one.

  8. Julian — Speaking as one who’s father (and father-in-law) suffered from this terrible condition, yes… I think family members would do ANYTHING to insure the safety of a loved one.

    As for your second question… I’m 61 and have an iPhone. I think I can be trusted with it. From this point forward, iPhones and similar devices will be part of the everyday lives of people. It won’t be a question of “getting an expensive phone for pops.” We are pops.

    Let me know if you do the app. Would love to interview you and review/promote it.

  9. I am considering developing a somewhat similar application but
    1) you think people would actually take the time to create all the pics and videos for the locations?
    2) will people entrust iPhones to their parents/relatives with Alzheimer’s?

  10. A beacon of light for anyone with the slightest connection to Alzheimer’s disease.

    It is important not to close the door because somwhere out there is light.

  11. I think saying nasty things about people in your blog while refusing to identify yourself is bad.
    Giving an anonymous gift to St. Jude’s Children Hospital is good.
    But you make a good point. In this instance, the anonymity is intended to protect the developer from stupid lawsuits.
    You must ask yourself if your Standards & Practices Division might be thwarting innovation by your creative guys.

  12. Anonymously? Is that the real smays talking?
    Thought you didn’t believe in anonymous. Anyway, don’t get me wrong – I think it’s a great idea – developing and getting it to the people who need it is complex though. Dementia patients are very also vulnerable to fraud and identity theft. Safeguards for that would have to be included in any interactive software. FDA or State regulatory agencies might take issue with anonymity or “wild” distribution…

  13. a) where to find developer that understands the disease – If not the WWW, then where?
    b) Why should it have to be for profit. Perhaps a group of caring developers donate their time and energy
    c)liability – Would this not have been an issue for pace-makers, artificial joints and every other kind of device. By this logic, the only advances will come from giant medical and pharmo companies who can charge enough to pay lots of lawyers.
    How about creating the app and releasing it (anonymously) into the wild, encouraging families to use common sense?

  14. I also walked a beloved parent through the course of Alzheimer’s disease. You’re right, the feasibility of such a device is more realistic now that electronics & computer use are becoming routine ADLs (Activities of Daily Living). (How many ADLs a patient can still manage is one measure of the severity of dementia.) Any device (or drug) that allows a patient to maintain some independent functioning longer is a blessing. There are many Alzheimer’s(and other brain injury) patients who would profit from such an aid.
    However, even in your “donation” scenario, what becomes problematic for the future of such a device is finding a software developer who (a) understands the disease, (b) [if for profit] has confidence in the size of the potential market; AND (c) is willing to risk the after-market liability of any “medical” device in our litigious culture.
    Personally, I’m betting on a vaccine. Recent studies suggest surfing the net has preventive value. Yay!

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