Health & Environment

Reducing Caregiver Burden Using Remote Monitoring Technology

Groundbreaking research using technology to support caregivers received a grant from the Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium.
By Rae Lynn Mitchell, Texas A&M University School of Public Health March 18, 2019

A very old senior Caucasian grandmother with gray hair and deep wrinkles sits at home on the couch in jeans and a red plaid shirt and uses a smart watch on her wrist. Pensioner and technology.
The study will examine the utility and usefulness of a wearable device for care recipients.

Getty Images

Texas A&M University Health Science Center is pleased to announce that it has received a $439,999 grant on “Assessing the utility and effectiveness of monitoring technology for reducing caregiver burden for Alzheimer’s disease” in collaboration with the University of North Texas Health Science Center and the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School. Focused on how technology can ease the burdens of caregiving, this multi-site pilot study is funded by the Texas Council on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders (Council) through the Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium (TARCC). The project goal is to prepare family caregivers to respond effectively in situations in which their loved ones are at safety risk due to wandering, a behavioral symptom commonly found in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders.

The study is timely, as technology will be instrumental in supporting the rapidly increasing caregiving requirements of an aging baby boomer population. Currently, 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and by 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 14 million, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Coinciding with the increase in people with Alzheimer’s disease is the impending care gap of professional and family caregivers.

Christian Wells, president of Alzheimer’s Texas, concurs about the important role of technology in care, saying, “Innovative technology can help caregivers increase safety and modify behaviors. From wearables to prevent wandering and provide location services, the use of music to calm and redirect, to apps for caregivers, technology is making a daily impact. Ultimately these interventions increase care outcomes for both the caregiver and person with Alzheimer’s.”

The overall aims of the two-phase longitudinal study are to examine the utility and usefulness of a wearable device for care recipients, which connects to their caregivers via a smartphone app to track activity and location and provide communication between the caregiver and care recipient as needed. After the successful conclusion of the first pilot phase focused on feasibility, investigators are proposing a larger randomized controlled trial to test the impact of this innovative, interactive device on functional and quality of life outcomes for persons living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and their caregivers.

“I am excited  TARCC is engaging in pioneering research utilizing technology to enhance care for the person living with Alzheimer’s and the other critical partner in the journey, the Caregiver,” said Rita Hortenstine, chair of the Texas Council on Alzheimer’s and Relate Disorders. “We eagerly await the results.”

Regents and Distinguished Professor Marcia G. Ory, PhD, MPH, of the Texas A&M School of Public Health, who is the founding director of the university-wide Center for Population Health and Aging and a key researcher in the study, commented, “Achieving the aims of the study will yield a better understanding of a new generation in dementia care that addresses the needs of both caregivers and care recipients. The current knowledge base will be enhanced with state-of-the-art technology combined with evidence-informed skill training to increase the well-being and safety of the care recipient, while reducing the burden of care on the caregiver.”

Based on prior work to enhance caregiver’s situational awareness by providing real-time monitoring of place and on demand two-way communication, Clairvoyant Networks, LLC was selected by researchers to provide the remote monitoring technology to support the study. The technology consists of a wearable watch for care recipients, coupled with a smartphone app for caregivers. Such solutions support a care recipient’s desire to live in their own homes longer, pursuing their usual activities but with the added security of knowing their care partners know where they are and have direct communication.

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