How Smartphones Can Help Seniors with Dementia and Alzheimer's

I had the pleasure of catching up with a repeat client of mine while working on her broken iPhone device. In our conversation, she mentioned how she wished that Apple would make devices that were more user-friendly for the teenage and Senior population. She also told me how her father has been using his iPhone SE to keep track of his memory because he has Alzheimer's and how the note and reminder apps help him keep track of his memory and the medications that he needs to take on a daily basis. During our conversation, my phone rang and on the other end of the line was the sweet and nurturing voice of a woman who said,

CALLER: Is this 'Geek With The Heels'? ME: This this Geek IN Heels. How may I help you?CALLER: My name is Mrs. McClure and you came highly recommended to me on Facebook. Listen, Dear, I have an issue. I don't know what I did but I somehow updated my phone and lost all of my important calendar notifications. I use my calendar to keep track of when I need to take my medications and doctor's appointments. Without the app, I could be in trouble and accidentally take too much medicine. Can you help me? ME: I surely can. I actually have availability this afternoon and would be happy to travel to you so that you do not have to leave your home. CALLER: Oh, that would be so great. I hope that's not any trouble. ME: No trouble at all. I will see you in a few hours.

I truly could not believe the moment of serendipity occurred exactly when it did and I was grateful that I was able to take action and assist. I spent a little over two hours with Ms. McClure helping to troubleshoot with her device issue, learning about her upbringing, looking at pictures of her adorable grand and great-grandchildren as well as being offered every food and beverage that she had in her fridge, pantry and freezer. In over a decade of having Geek In Heels, I have witnessed that seniors are quickly embracing digital life especially if they live alone, like Ms. McClure. A recent study from the Pew Research Center found the amount of seniors 65 and above, about 85% owned a cell phone. Of those seniors, 46% used a smartphone and 40% used a regular cell phone such as a standard flip phone.

Passive reminders like calendars, a diary, Post-It notes, and notebooks require any user to have to remember to look in that calendar or notebook for the information in order to be reminded. This is why using digital reminders in cell phones, iPad's, or tablets can provide cognitive support and may improve performance and task completion for people with memory loss, dementia or Alzheimers. Seniors at risk for cognitive impairments may benefit from having access to digital technology to help with everyday life activities and further support their independence. Having access to technology is very important to our Senior population who live alone, like Ms. McClure. Smartphones can provide hours of entertainment, but they can also make life easier and more efficient. Seniors can use apps to help them remember where they parked, ensure that they take their medication on time, communicate with their doctor, and receive severe weather alerts, among other things. These apps help seniors live confidently and independently even when they’re at home by themselves.

iPhones and most Androids come equipped with a virtual assistant. These personal assistants respond to voice commands and questions like, “Call Jenny,” or “How many feet are in a mile?” Seniors may find these particularly useful since they eliminate the need to type full sentences on the keypad and can help you navigate a new phone.

iPhones come equipped with Siri, the Apple virtual assistant, while Android users can choose from a range of apps that perform similar tasks. If a Senior may have the tendency to misplace their glasses or keys, they might find it helpful to buy electronic tracking tiles. You can add these to the items that they tend to lose the most – like the remote control that I always feel like remote control trolls keep stealing and moving around my house – and then track them with their phone. An alert can be enabled from the cell phone, and the tile you’ve added will make a beeping noise, leading them to the misplaced object.

Some apps that I have found to be of great use to Seniors are,

  • Find My iPhone (FREE) - This application is already built-in to Apple devices on iPhone and iPads. When my son got his first iPhone at 7 years old he constantly misplaced his phone. He is also the one who taught me how to use this app when he borrowed my iPhone to use the 'Find My iPhone' app to locate his phone. If you misplace your iPhone or iPad this app will find it for you. It will show the last location on a map. Even if the device was on silent mode it will bypass that feature and allow the device to sound the alarm so that you can find it.

  • iPharmacy Pill ID & Drug Info (FREE) - This app allows users to identify pills by color and shape find out the side effects of a medication and get reminders of when to take your meds with this handy app.

  • Pillboxie (FREE for iOS) - Sometimes remembering to take medications can be tricky, especially if you take different medications on different days. The Pillboxie app allows you to make a customized pillbox and set reminders to help you take your pills at their scheduled times.

  • MediSafe Medication Reminder (FREE for iOS) - Making life simpler is a good thing. MediSafe Medication Reminder does just that, is easy to use, performs a plethora of functions, and is highly regarded by healthcare professionals. Besides reminding you when to take specific medications, or that you need to refill a prescription, this app can help you keep track of your blood glucose levels, blood pressure, weight, pulse, and temperature. This data can be saved and sent on to your doctor. Among the many other functions is the family notification option where, if the user’s alarm goes off but the user fails to record they have taken their meds, whoever that user chose beforehand will be informed, and can then check-in with the user to see if everything’s okay.

  • Notes App (on iOS) - I use the Notes App, myself, to store information such as passwords, notes, and other important information. The Notes app is preinstalled on all Apple devices. Launch the Notes app from the Home Screen of your iPhone or iPad. Tap the Create new note button at the bottom right. Tap anywhere inside the note to bring up the keyboard and start writing. Tap the New note button from within an existing note to quickly start another one.

I suggest taking the time to gather important information from the Mature/Senior Citizens in your life such as their medical information, medications, passwords, important numbers, and other information to store for your own access in case of an emergency. Most important, check on your loved ones this time of year because it can be hard for them especially those who live alone. That's it, that is all that I have for now. As always, feel free to contact Geek In Heels if you have any questions. Happy Holidays From Geek In Heels