According to the Alzheimer’s Association, five million Americans live with the disease. This figure could rise to 16 million in 2050, as someone develops the condition every 66 seconds. Meanwhile, approximately one million people have Parkinson’s, and there are 60,000 new cases every year. The combined expense of treating these illnesses in terms of direct and indirect cost is in the tens of billions each year. Then, there are the millions of people forced to witness the heartbreaking sight of a previously vibrant and energetic loved one become a shadow of what he or she once was.
Given the mental, physical, emotional, and financial cost attached to both conditions, it is no surprise that there is a wide array of new technologies available to help patients manage the diseases. Keep reading to learn more about seven of the best.
1. Liftware by Lift Labs
Liftware could make mealtimes a lot easier for Parkinson’s patients. Lift Labs has created a series of spoons designed to cancel the tremor in a person’s hand, thus ensuring theindividual can enjoy his or her meal. Liftware Steady is an assistive device for a hand tremor, and it shakes 70% less than the hand.
The Liftware Level range is for patients with limited hand and arm mobility. It is ideal for individuals with conditions such as Huntington’s and cerebral palsy.
2. The Wright Stuff
The Wright Stuff is a company that specializes in clothing for people who no longer have the use of one of their hands. The product range includes dressing sticks, sock aids, one-handed nail clippers, and much more.
3. Speak for Yourself
Speech-language therapists created the Speak for Yourself Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) app, which allows people with limited voice function to speak through their iPad. At present, the app has a vocabulary of 13,000 words, and the improved sound quality means the voice is starting to sound more natural.
4. Humanoid Robots
Alzheimer’s patients in Australia are enjoying a transformation in their quality of life thanks to tools such as virtual reality and humanoid robots. In one nursing home facility in Perth, a Nao robot called Alice can bring the residents together. This is no small feat, as many of the residents of the facility shy away from gatherings. However, they always appear for Alice’s weekly music class.
The robot plays games with the residents and encourages them to socialize. Humanoid robots also detect when a patient has forgotten to take his/her medication, and they can identify several actions such as walking or opening a door.
5. Indoor and Outdoor Smart Reminders
A frequent symptom of memory and cognitive impairment is wandering and disorientation when outside. This happens even when the individual is familiar with the environment. Scientists have created a technique whereby they track patients using a real-time device reliant on GPS data to create models that trace a user’s normal itinerary.
The models are marked with frequent destinations and developed in graph form.The scientists involved in the project developed an algorithm to identify any deviations from the normal routine and alert the individual so he or she can get back to the usual route.
When it comes to indoor smart reminders, scientists have created ways to combat forgetfulness around the home. Context-aware sensors are capable of recognizing a person’s activity, analyzing situations, and responding intelligently. A simple example is if an individual forgets to turn off the oven after answering a phone call. He or she receives a reminder in the form of a visual cue, voice message, or video clip.
The GPS SmartSole is an incredibly clever idea, as it helps ensure dementia patients don’t get lost for long. The product includes a smartphone sealed inside a sole, and it uses the same cellular and GPS technology as a traditional smartphone. It is a non-invasive, discreet way to make sure your loved one is within reach. It automatically checks in with you every 10 minutes, but these advanced shoes don’t come cheap, as the SmartSole costs $299. Then, there is an activation fee of $35, and you must pay $34.95 a month for monitoring.
Ybrain is a Korean company that specializes in the manufacture and sale of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). The company recently made the news because it released a tDCS headband worn to treat depression. However, it also creates a number of wearables that use electrical signals to reduce symptoms of degenerative brain diseases. tDCS is probably an upgrade on Repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS). The efficacy of the treatment is still unknown, but researchers are excited with their findings to date.
It is about time the industry focused on creating items to improve the lives of people who suffer from conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. There is still so much we don’t know about these diseases, and as research uncovers new information, manufacturers will create technological advances to ease the burden on patients and their loved ones.