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Alzheimer’s and Human Emulation

July 10, 2012

Now that I’m fortunate enough to be managing a neurological practice, I’ve been thinking about how technology could be useful to an useful an Alzheimer’s patient. Northwest Neurological is the last independent neurological practice in Spokane and not surprisingly, our primary neurologist David Greeley, encourages independent thinking. Dr. Greeley and his team see a number of Alzheimer’s folks and we know that by 2050, one out of every 80 people in the United States is going to have the disease.

Applying technology to enhance the quality of life among this group seems like a good strategy. After doing previous research and writing a guest blog for Next IT I know just enough about emulation to be dangerous. So, think about how the person could at least in the early stages of the disease, log in and be reminded about critical things that they want to remember. Imagine an avatar with a voice.

The patient has a sign by their computer to remind them to log in and the site is their home page. After logging in the avatar says, “Good morning. Which information items listed below would you like me to speak to you about this morning?” The patient and their family or friends have assisted in developing a number of questions that will help keep the patient feeling more mentally able longer. The list might look something like this:

 What is today’s date and day?

What is my daily schedule?

What do I like to eat in the morning?

Who am I married to or who was I married to?

What are the names of my children and their children and where do they live?

Who is my best friend and how do I get in touch with him or her?

When and where was I born, where did I spend my childhood and who were my parents?

What are the major things I did prior to having Alzheimer’s?

You could compose and arrange the questions based on where the person was at in the disease process and what their primary memory concerns might be. The family might consult with the patient’s provider as to the best questions to have answers to. Maybe there is a way to have the responses be written as well as spoken? (Out of concern that different people have different learning styles.)

 There might be an additional benefit of having photos linked to some answers. So the response to “Where did I spend my childhood?” might flash a photo of the family farm or a link to such a photo. I might be going off the technical deep end here, but I bet such things are possible or will be possible.

Does anyone besides me think this might be a good idea?  I’ll bet there might be a few takers out there and perhaps such a thing might already exist and I just couldn’t find it on the web. In any case, we need to use all the technology we have to assist patients and families in managing this disease.



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