Alzheimer’s and dementia make it difficult for patients to plan, organize, and communicate and it is distressing for friends and relatives to suddenly become unrecognizable. Those with Alzheimer’s can often feel isolated and alone even when they are surrounded by people who have known them for a long time. They rely on the support of apparent strangers who dedicate themselves to assisting, motivated either by love or professional purpose.
Technology is making breakthroughs in the field of care for those with Alzheimer’s disease. The cutting edge of this drive is being led by small pieces of software that run on standard consumer gadgets. Tablets and smartphones (Need data? Compare the best cell phone plans) are particularly well supplied with apps that help those affected by Alzheimer’s disease; both the patient and caregiver.
Apps for Caregivers
Support for caregivers includes sources of information, places to meet other caregivers online, and tools to assist the patent. Some of these apps are available for download onto a mobile device, while others are web-based services.
Take a look at:
- Greymatters – A digital scrapbook creation system.
- Iridis – A tip system that helps organize a dementia-friendly home.
- Memory Box – A choice of apps to create recollection-invoking digital memory boxes.
- Dementia Emergency – A source of advice on all Alzheimer-related difficulties.
- Life360 – A family-tracking app.
- Alzheimer’s Society Talking Point Forum – An online forum offering peer support.
Find out more about these apps in the following sections.
The Greymatters app is a scrapbook system that is available for free from the Apple App Store. The download will install on iPhones and iPads. As this is a visual service, it is probably better to just use it on a tablet rather than the small screen of a phone. The app enables you to put together photo albums with notes that remind the individual of the past, substituting for lost memories.
Iridis was developed by specialists at the University of Sterling in the UK. The purpose of the app is to give advice on reorganizing the home of an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient to make them easier for the individual to live in.
Issues that the app advises on include lighting, how to reduce noise, what furniture to buy and what colors to use. The app is free to use and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store for iPads and iPhone and from Google Play for Android devices.
Therapists recommend a technique called a “memory box. This is a lidless box into which the caregiver places photos and mementos related to a person or an event. This stimulates or replaces the memories of an individual with Alzheimer’s disease.
There are three apps that enable you to create a digital version of a memory box. Two are called Memory Box – Flo-culture Memory Box, which is available for Android and iOS devices also MMDP Memory Box, which is available for Android devices. The Mnemania MemoryBox is available for iPhone and iPads at the Apple App Store.
Dementia Emergency is an advice service that was created and is run by the British dementia support organization, Dignity in Dementia. The information service is available as a website and also as an app for iOS devices. The app for iPhones and iPads is available at the Apple App Store.
This free app gives information to caregivers on how to handle a range of actions by those with Alzheimer’s.
Life360 is a tracking app that will help you to know where your loved ones are at all times. This is particularly important for those caring for family members with Alzheimer’s disease as you can set the system so that you get notified as soon as that individual leaves the home, which is a useful setting for those who can’t be there all the time.
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There is a free version of this service. The paid version costs $2.99 per month and adds on access to crime reports. A higher plan at $7.99 per month includes driver protection. The system works through a website, through an app for iOS devices, available form the Apple App Store, and an apps for Android devices from Google Play.
The UK’s Alzheimer’s Society runs an online forum that is a great place to get support from other caregivers and also Alzheimer’s patients. There isn’t a mobile app for this service, it is available at the Alzheimer’s Society’s website. Although the Society is a UK institution, access to the forum isn’t restricted. Anyone from anywhere in the world is allowed to register and contribute.
Entertainment Apps for Alzheimer’s Patients
This category includes simple games that will keep an individual’s mind lively and provide subtle forms of memory training while providing an entertaining diversion.
The entertainment apps we recommend are:
- MyReef 3D – A quest to stock an aquarium.
- Peak Brain Training – Games based on scientific research to improve cognitive skills.
- Let’s Create! Pottery – Stimulates creativity and has an active user community.
- Tetris – Stretches reaction times and continually speeds up.
- Microsoft Solitaire Collection – Well-known card games to keep the mind occupied.
Take a look through my mini-reviews of these apps.
This digital aquarium is both calming and entertaining. It is suitable even for advanced cases of Alzheimer’s because it is engaging, but doesn’t require any recollection. The user chooses different species to populate the aquarium and then watches them swim around. It is also necessary to feed the fish occasionally.
MyReef 3D Aquarium is free to download but requires payment of $2.99 to use. You need to pay for each item that goes into the aquarium. You can get the app from the Apple App Store for iPads and iPhones and from Google Play for Android devices.
A study carried out at Cambridge University in the UK revealed that brain training games can improve the memory of patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s/dementia. The study explains that the game’s stages, getting progressively harder to win, make it particularly conducive to cognitive training. The researchers created a game, called Game Show in partnership with games developer, Peak. They found those test subjects that played the game increased their memory capabilities by 40 percent.
Game Show was further developed and is now available to the public as Peak Brain Training. You can download it from Google Play for Android devices and from the Apple App Store of iPhones and iPads. The system is free and has paid add-ons.
This virtual reality game enables participants to create pottery designs and watch them take shape on the potter’s wheel. The activity demands creativity, which exercises cognitive skills. There is also a community site where players can exhibit their pots and chat.
Tetris is a well-known game where falling shapes need to be directed to fit neatly into an existing pile. The simple game is good for stretching cognitive skills and the fact that the rate of shape falls increases with continued success means that the boundaries of the player’s abilities keep being pushed. The game is free and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Most people know how to play Solitaire and this pack of games has the familiar version plus four other similar card games. The games can be played online or downloaded from the Microsoft Store. The bundle is free and is also available from the Apple App Store and Google Play.
Day-to-day Support Apps for Alzheimer’s Patients
Although personal assistant apps aren’t much use in severe cases of Alzheimer’s, many patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease just need a little help with reminders and schedules. Keeping a routine makes tasks easier to remember and performing those tasks frequently can keep the memory of how to do them live in the brain.
Here are the day-to-day personal assistant apps that I think will help many Alzheimer’s patients:
- It’s Done! – A scheduler that provides checklists for regular tasks.
- Dementia Digital Diary – A clock with reminders for upcoming events.
- Timeless – A suite of communication and reminder tools.
- Nymbl – App-based exercise classes to improve balance.
- Medisafe – A scheduler for medication.
- MyTherapy – A medication tracker and reminder app.
Each of these apps are explained in more detail below.
1. It’s Done!
It’s Done is a scheduling system that is suitable for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. It provides checklists of tasks at different times of the say. For example, it will list all of the things that need to be done when going to bed, such as locking the front door and turning off the TV. The user checks off each item as the task is completed.
A dementia-friendly clock that tells you whether it is morning, afternoon, evening, or night. The app is free to use and can be updated with a schedule by a caregiver from another device. It retains a schedule and displays the next two upcoming events, such as a visit or the time to take medicine.
Timeless is a contact and scheduling system that was specifically designed to support Alzheimer’s patients. The app can be updated by a caregiver and it presents an easier to use interface to calling and text functions on the device. It shows pictures of each contact instead of just a name.
The scheduler in the app can be populated by the caregiver. This appears on the main screen of the phone with the date and time and current weather. An identifier lets the user take a photo of a visitor, which is then compared to all stored person pictures.
Timeless is free and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store for iPads and iPhones.
Nymbl addresses the physical problems that can develop in the elderly who are forced into a sedentary lifestyle by Alzheimer’s. the company offers three programs: Nymbl Training, which gives 10-minute exercise plans to individuals; Nymbl Class, a 10-minute exercise regime for groups; and Nymbl Pro, which is an assessment app for use by therapists.
The purpose of these exercises is to improve balance and prevent patents from falling down. The service also includes a web-based portal, where caregivers and therapists can track the patient’s progress with the plan. All apps are free to use and are available for iOS and Android devices.
Medisafe is a medication scheduler/reminder, which is a great help for those with short-term memory problems. The system also works out if any of the drugs you have been subscribed react badly with each other.
A rival medicine tracker and scheduler that is suitable for Alzheimer’s patients with poor memory. This app gives reminders and alerts when it’s time to take medicine. also allows you to enter health measurements, such as blood pressure, from which it will generate live graphs.
Caregivers are able to update the medication schedule and alerts can be sent out to nominated carers, should a scheduled dose get missed.
Memory Training Apps for Alzheimer’s Patients
The memory impairment of Alzheimer’s disease can’t be halted. However, the degenerative effects of the disease can be slowed through mental exercises. These tools are aimed at people who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Some of these apps provide day-to-day support as well as memory training, while others entertain as they train.
Here are the six best memory training apps:
- MindMate – An Alzheimer’s support package that includes memory games as well as entertainment, advice, and monitoring features.
- Elevate Brain Training – Games and tests to improve cognitive skills.
- Impulse – A pack of digital brain training games available in free and paid versions.
- Memory Games: Brain Training – Memory training games to improve cognitive skills.
- Lumosity Mobile – Brain training games designed from scientific research.
- Spaced Retrieval Therapy – Timed memory tests that report on progress to a therapist by email.
MindMate is a support tool for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia that was developed in partnership with the British National Health Service, the Royal Society of Medicine, and the University of Glasgow.
The app contains physical exercise routines, mind-stretching games and quizzes, and tips and advice. The tool also includes a schedule and reminder system, and a memory box tool to preserve your recollections.
The memory improvements created by Elevate Brain Training are confirmed by a study carried out at California State University. The app includes games and trials that increase in complexity to improve cognitive skills.
Impulse is a free set of brain training games that is also available in a higher paid version on a subscription of one week, one month, and six months.
The app is available on the Apple App Store for iOS devices (iPads and iPhones) and it is a compendium of games, each of which runs to progressively harder levels. The advancement to harder versions of each game on successfully completing a level pushes the user to improve brain performance.
Another mind training game set to improve cognitive skills and overcome some of the effects of Alzheimer’s. The set includes 21 different games, each with increasing levels of complexity. More than one million users have already downloaded this app. It is a good idea to dedicate 2 to 5 minutes on the game every day in order to improve memory.
The Memory Games app is available from Google Play to run on Android devices. The basic app is free to use and there are higher paid editions.
Lumosity has an inhouse science department to develop and test its brain training games. Training for 15 minutes per day, five days per week with Lumosity is twice as effective at improving memory and cognitive skills than doing crosswords instead.
The app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store for iPads and iPhones and from Google Play to run on Android devices. It is also possible to play the games on a computer through the Lumosity website.
The basic app is free to use, but there are two higher plans that cost $11.99 and $14.99 per month. It is also possible to pay for both levels annually, in which case, they cost $59.99 and $79.99.
Tactus Therapy focuses on speech therapy tools, but it does produce one app that would be very good for a patient with Alzheimer’s, which is the Spaced Retrieval Therapy. This app is a memory training system that times responses, the goal for the user is not just to get the tests right, but to improve response speed.
The system will send out attainment reports to a therapist or caregiver, so the user is able to use the app alone at any time, rather than having someone standing over and watching that they are done. This feature makes the Spaced Retrieval Therapy app more suitable for deployment by health professionals on their patients than the other brain training apps in this list.