senior woman using smart phone

No one knows the challenges of being a dementia caregiver better than another caregiver. That’s why a team of researchers from the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis, Indiana University and the University of Wisconsin are looking for family caregivers to help them design an app that will help other caregivers manage patient medication.

Richard Holden

“Healthcare professionals have a way to communicate with each other and the patient might have some way to communicate with their primary care doctor, but sometimes the caregiver is out of the loop,” project co-leader and Regenstrief Institute researcher Richard Holden, PhD, told McKnight’s Home Care Daily. “They don’t have that kind of communication channel.”

Research for the app is being funded through a $424,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging. The research team launched the study July 1 and will begin looking for caregivers to help design the app this fall. Five caregivers will be selected from Indiana and another five will be selected from Wisconsin.

Holden said he still isn’t sure the app will include; that’s what the caregivers will help decide. He said the app could answer questions about medications or connect caregivers with resources. The two caregiver teams will work separately on ideas for the app, then combine ideas later.

“Maybe the red team comes up with this, but the blue team comes up with that,” Holden explained. “They’ll critique each other and they’ll get to know each other’s work. So it’s a really nice 50-50 parallel.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 6.2 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s Disease and more than 16 million people are providing up to 17 billion hours of unpaid care for those patients.

Holden has developed other apps including one that helps caregivers manage the behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia. He said it could take a couple of years to collect data, design it and get funding to bring this new app to market.

“As soon as we think it’s safe and making a difference, we’ll put it out in the real world,” Holden said.