Smart Apps for Dementia Carers

Apps for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Here are the seven of the best and worst apps for caregivers that A Place for Mom reviewed, including information about their features, the devices for which they’re available, and our overall opinion of their usefulness and value. Of course every caregiver’s needs are different, so don’t necessarily rule out an app they didn’t praise or count on a highly praised app to work perfectly for your family.

Balance: For Alzheimer’s Caregivers

iPhone: Yes ($.99) | iPad: yes ($.99) | Android: No | Web app: No | Ann’s full Review
Balance: For Alzheimer’s Caregivers is a versatile app geared specifically caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
Features:

  • Alzheimer’s disease reference and information
  • Alzheimer’s caregiving and advice
  • Advanced medication management features, such as refill date, start date, dosage, and so on
  • Uses the iPhone and iPad’s native scheduling  features, but adds categories relevant to caregivers
  • “Doctor diary” for logging symptoms and taking notes that may be relevant at the next’s visit
  • News about Alzheimer’s disease

Pros/Cons: Ann found the app to be useful, but found some areas that could use some improvement: “I did note some shortcomings. Patient profile information is limited to name, birth date, and gender, and the app lacks a contact list, sharable to-do list, and file storage capability. I also feel that having a companion website increases usability significantly, but unfortunately a user’s only window into Balance is through the smartphone app.”

Caregiver’s Touch

iPhone: Yes ($4.99) | iPad: No  Android: No | Web app: Yes ($19.95 per month or $199.95 per year) | Ann’s Full Review
Ann was utterly impressed with Caregiver’s Touch calling it a sanity saver and writing, “Where was this when I needed it?” It has a huge number of features. Here are just a few. You can learn more in Ann’s review.
Features:

  • Log of essential information for your loved one, including birthdate, SSN, blood type, military history and other such info
  • Calendar for caregiving events that accommodates for caring for more than one person =
  • Medication management, including doses, schedule and other important information
  • A place to store insurance information such as policy numbers and policy types
  • Caregiving contact list
  • Medical history log
  • Supports sharing information with family members so that you can coordinate care
  • Security features to protect private information

Pros/Cons: To get the most out of Caregiver’s Touch, it needs to be used in tandem with the web app, and this subscription costs $19.95 per month, or $199.95 per year, making it more expensive than any of its competitors.

CareZone

Smartphone iconsiPhone: Yes (free) | iPad: Yes (free)  Android: Yes (free) | Web app: No | Ann’s full review
Ann was quite pleased with CareZone features, and also the fact it’s free. Note that since the publication of Ann’s review, they have since added an Android version.
Features:

  • A care profile to log all pertinent information about loved one who is receiving care
  • Invite friends and families to join you and become “helpers”
  • A shareable task-list to help you keep on track
  • A shareable journal, which includes ability to log observations and upload photos to keep loved ones up to date about the elder’s well-being
  • Medication tracking, “to keep a list all meds, dosages, purpose, prescribing physician, pharmacy, RX number and more.”
  • File storage service so that you can share files with loved ones about elder’s care
  • What’s called a “CareZone broadcast” that allows you to “send a recorded voice message to up to 100 recipients.”


Pros/Cons:
 Ann was disappointed the app did not track medication schedules or send reminders, although she contacted the makers and those features are in development.

Caring Ties

iPhone: No | iPad: No  | Android: No | Web app: Yes (free)
Caring Ties offers many of the features you would expect in an application for caregivers, but it’s strictly  a web based application rather than one designed to run specifically on your device. That means that you can access it with any modern, internet connected smartphones and tablets but that it is not downloaded from an application store. This app might be best for someone who does not have a smart phone or tablet, but can access the internet on a PC or laptop.
Features:

  • Reminders, for example, to test blood sugar
  • Note taking about loved one’s well being
  • Log medical information such as blood pressure
  • Share information with loved ones, and including setting different levels of access for different loved ones
  • List of medications

Pros/Cons: Caring Ties seems to run well on a desktop version but it was somewhat clunky when tested on an iPhone. The makers advertise the web-only factor as a benefit, noting, “Even if you accidentally spill a drink on your device there’s nothing to worry about,” but other apps offer both a dedicated app and in the cloud storage, so this argument is somewhat dubious.

Mobicare

iPhone: Yes (free) | iPad: No  | Android: No | Web app: Yes | Ann’s full review
Mobicare is a simple, straightforward and free iPhone that Ann wasn’t impressed with. Ann said the app had some notable shortcomings, but it has some potentially useful features. As a free app, it can’t hurt to try if any of its features appeals to you. It may be worth checking on in the future too, as app developers constantly work to improve their product by releasing updates.
Features:

  • Profile of loved one who is receiving care including birth date, gender, basic insurance information, and the contact information for one physician
  • Basic symptom tracking based on 15 preset choices (i.e. insomnia, wandering, etc.)
  • Basic medication tracking but with some limitations


Pros/Cons:
 Ann said that cons included the lack of a calendar, contact list, control over what other caregivers have access to, bugs within the app, and the extremely limited functionality of the web version of the app.

RX Personal Caregiver

Smartphones stackediPhone: Yes ($9.99, free trial version available) | iPad: No  Android: No | Web app: No
RX Personal Caregiver is all about medications. Despite its name, it does not have features one might expect from a caregiving app except for the medication reminders other drug related features. It may have the best medication related features of all the caregiver apps but it doesn’t have any other caregiver related features.
Features:

  • Detailed medication management support, including tracking doses, dosage, refills and so on
  • Missed dose instructions
  • Guide to more than 15,000 drugs
  • FDA alerts for recalled medications

Pros/Cons: The apps sole focus on drugs makes it unsuitable as a caregiver’s sole app. It may be work in concert with another app in cases where medication management is particularly important or challenging, but most caregivers will not find this app useful unless their only need is medication management.

Unfrazzle

iPhone: Yes (free) | iPad: Yes (free) | Android: Free | Web app: no
Unfrazzle is marketed as a caregiver app, although was difficult to determine upon first inspection. After spending more time with it, we were able to see that it’s highly customizable and personalizable tool that could be quite helpful for caregivers. It could also be used for other productivity and “life-hacking” purposes as well. That said, it requires the user to invest significant time in setup and customization to get the most out of it.
Features:

  • Create to-do list and journals
  • Track anything and everything you like (i.e. weight over time, mood, etc.)
  • Connect with other family members and share information and responsibilities
  • Highly customizable

Pros/Cons: The app is highly flexible and makes no cookie-cutter assumptions about the user and his or her needs, but it is also quite complex and might be somewhat imponderable to less tech-savvy users. There is a steep learning curve and the user interface is less than intuitive. Still, the app is young and its developers seem eager to improve it, so we expect it will become a stronger and more accessible tool over time.

Healthcare Apps 2014 – a few impressions

This event was held on April 28th-30th in Victoria in London. It was organised by Pharma IQ and clearly had a strong pharma focus (including the charge which at £1995 for industry attendees clearly discriminated in favour of those with big-pharma sized budgets). It was also held just a few days after the significantly lower-priced Royal Society of Medicine event, and in the middle of a London Tube strike, all of which doubtless contributed to the relatively modest attendance (26 paid). I am most grateful to the organisers for kindly inviting me as one of speaker Alex Wyke’s guests.

As mentioned in an earlier post, there was a similarity with the RSM agenda, so I won’t repeat comments made by the same speaker before. The first up was the 3G Doctor, David Doherty, who gave another of his excellent presentations, although the sound engineer sadly made some of it inaudible. After a review of how we had got to where we are, he suggested that the Internet is about to become a device-dominated network. He drew a parallel between Rolls Royce’s telemetry-enabled service approach for jet engine provision and how LTCs like diabetes might best be managed.

He went on to describe the importance of mobile technology to clinicians, suggesting that there will be a date beyond which they will not be allowed to practice without owning one. For training, the difference in performance is already emerging: he pointed people to the UC Irvine study that showed that their students scored 23% higher when they used apps to study with.

As he did at the RSM, Julian Hitchcock, from Lawford Davies Denoon gave another truly brilliant summary of the UK and US regulatory position. Every time I hear his talk I learn more – on this occasion it was recognition of jusat how complicated the regulatory position is, with the great number of considerations in addition to MDD/IVDA, data privacy and consumer protection.

Unfortunately I had to duck out for the presentations by David Grainger, Senior Medical Device Specialist from the MHRA and another RSM speaker, Indi Singh, Head of Enterprise Architecture at NHS England.

Jim Dawton, Lead specialist – Design, at the Technology Strategy Board, did a great job of convincing us that money spent on a well designed app is money well spent.

Alex Wyke of PatientView gave a similarly excellent presentation to the one she gave at the RSM on the myhealthapps site that rates health apps on customer feedback.

What I had hoped to be the highlight of the event, Baku Patel, Senior Advisor at the FDA in the US, turned out to be a phone call from him which somehow lost much when compared with a presentation in person, especially as in the forty minutes he principally confined himself to the basics of FDA regulation that have been so well described by Julian Hitchcock as (a small) part of his regulation presentations anyway.

The second day began with an interesting talk by Alexia Tonnel, Director of Evidence Resources at NICE, who spoke about NICE’s use of apps to deliver NICE guidance and the BNF. Of special interest to those present was the willingness to allow NICE content to be used by other organisations in their apps, obviously on an appropriate basis; many business cards were exchanged.

This was followed by Peter Dannenfelser, Director of Pharmaceutical Marketing at Janssen Pharmaceuticals (Johnson & Johnson’s pharma arm) who told us about strategic approaches to developing an HCP (ie clinician-facing) app. He explained that, compared with tablets, smartphones are used by clinicians typically at the point-of-care for quick hits so the apps need to be simple to use. He suggested that good principles for app creation are: meet user needs: be beautiful but practical; speediness; your app is yr brand; and finally update, update, update. He gave appropriate good and bad examples ot make his points.

Next up was Rowan Pritchard-Jones, who offered a slightly different angle to that in his RSM presentation. A particular point I had missed in previous presentations is that not only does the Mersey Burns app give much more accurate fluid infusion calculation, it also saves emergency doctors some ten minutes of the ‘Golden Hour’ to do the 19 separate calculations. He is also on a mission to get patients to feel comfortable with doctors using technology – as he said: “I want patients to see doctors approaching their beds using smartphones & not worry”. Rowan told this editor in conversation he now has CE certification for another app, Mersey Micro, which doubtless we’ll get to hear about very soon.

Andy Smith, Global Mobile & Emerging Channels Manager, Digital, in BUPA gave an interesting presentation on the Ground Miles app, aimed at getting people worldwide to exercise more ot reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. A great initiative by BUPA, with a well designed and marketed app!

Imran Rafi, Chair of Clinical Innovation & Research at the RCGP gave an excellent presentation on data protection and risk management issues associated with apps. A particular challenge he mentioned that had not occurred to me before was the information governance aspects of releasing information on PHRs from other sources, eg Benefits. In TTA we have commented on the RCGP’s 2022 Vision documents that almost failed to recognise forecast technological progress at all. Imran is now working hard to change that, so more power to his elbow.

That was followed by Sharon Cooper, CTO of the BMJ who gave us a fascinating insight into how the BMJ uses user input to design their apps – the series of pictures from sketch to completed screen design were particularly impressive. She showed a particularly interesting infographic of use of smartphones by doctors which is well worth a look. She explained that the four critical aspects of decision support for clinicians are: computer based generation of decision support; provision of recommendation rather than just an assessment; provision of decision support at time and location of decision making; and automatic provision of decision support as part of clinician workflow.

What this editor took away from the event is that, to misquote L P Hartley, pharma is a foreign country; they do things differently there. For example, most of the tea-break, and round-table, discussions with pharma delegates focused on how apps could be used to promote or support product sales, or improve the effectiveness of products when sold (thus presumably encouraging more sales). Others had come along from their companies for inspiration, having been given app-related responsibilities, and told to find an appropriate role for them. This is very different to the clear patient outcome-focused world this editor is used to.

In this context, it is perhaps just worth referring readers to the mobihealthnews in depth item on pharma’s digital health opportunities which, though just released, already has an active disagreement underway in the comments. The two key aspects they highlight are the lack of trust patients (presumably US) have in pharma, and the industry’s strong risk adversity.

– See more at: http://telecareaware.com/healthcare-apps-2014-a-few-impressions/#sthash.Xi4dIZjn.dpuf

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