Wearable Technology and Dementia

Teenager Kenneth Shinozuka knew that he wanted to find a way to alleviate the fear his family felt when his grandfather wandered away from his home. His grandfather lives with Alzheimer’s disease and wandering is a behavior affecting many patients in all stages of the disease. Statistics cited by the Alzheimer’s Association reveal that 45% of wanderers will be found dead if they are not found within the first 24 hours. Wandering might appear aimless, but typically occurs when patients feel that they have a sense of purpose to travel to a specific location or away from an environment that they find upsetting. What can be done when a “life line” button is simply not pushed?

Shinozuka created a sensor that is affixed to a patient’s sock. This sensor detects pressure applied by body weight, and then sends wireless alerts to a caregiver’s smartphone device.  Shinozuka’s story has proven captivating and he’s been given national attention. His invention won him $50,000 at the 2014 Google Science Fair. He was also honored by President Obama a couple of weeks ago at the White House Science Fair. At 16 years old, Kenneth Shinozuka is a leader of his generation, proving that the Alzheimer’s and dementia community includes members of all ages.

Shinozuka’s idea has evolved into the company SafeWander™. The product is expected to include the sensor, transmitter, and application for smartphone. The stated goals of SafeWander™ include protecting the safety of patients and relieving overall caregiver burden. The system is currently in a beta test stage in residential care facilities. For more information, visit http://www.safewander.com/.

Another product, called Smart Sole™, outlines intended use for dementia patients, as well as other populations of people that may wander, such as Autism and Traumatic Brain Injury patients. The Smart Sole™ consists of a pair of insoles to be placed in a patient’s shoe. It is also compatible with smartphones via its own unique application.  The SmartSole™ is GPS or Bluetooth enabled. The cost of the SmartSole™ is listed on its website as $299.00. The online tracking and alerts plan is listed at $29.95 per month. Platinum concierge service which includes live operator assistance is also offered at $49.95 per month. For more information, visit http://www.gpssmartsole.com/.

The Alzheimer’s Association has also recognized a need for a device that can track a wandering patient. Their product is called Comfort Zone®. Its website describes it as a web-based location management service. It allows caregivers to establish a preset zone and the caregivers then receive automated alerts whenever a patient has travelled beyond those perimeters. Tracking devices can be placed in a pocket, purse, or vehicle. They also offer a Comfort Zone Check-In® option in which includes an on-demand “find me” function and scheduled location alerts for the caregivers. Devices supplied range from $99 to $199 and incremental location service updates can range from $14.99 to $49.99 per month. For more information, visit http://alz.org/comfortzone/.

At Weatherby & Associates, we understand that caring for a loved one with dementia can provoke a great deal of worry. Consider exploring new technology like the examples outlined above to help increase your loved one’s overall safety. As a life care planning law firm, we are here to help you live well. Please call us if you have any questions at 860-769-6938.


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