When your parents can’t care for themselves anymore, it’s hard to decide what to do. But it’s a decision that some have to make.
I was very close to my parents. I spoke to my dad every day. I said I was calling with updates, but I often wanted advice. I cherished his love and support.
When my dad became sick with chronic pulmonary disorder, it triggered other chronic conditions too. And it took an emotional toll. I needed to be there for him, for his appointments and trips to emergency rooms, often in the middle of the night.
I spent some long nights alone in waiting rooms, thinking.
I began to see that our system is failing the chronically ill. I became convinced that there must be a way to help chronic patients stay at home, with their loved ones, living life in a meaningful way.
I couldn’t find a solution in time for my dad. But I became committed to finding a better approach, and that commitment drives me today.
Identifying a new approach
Back in 2007, I had begun a project called SimpleC. It was software that helped people in assisted living facilities stay in touch with their families. But my experience with my dad made me realize that SimpleC had to do more.
SimpleC needed to help people with chronic conditions live in a meaningful way. One of the most common chronic conditions today is dementia. In the United States, 80% of people in assisted living facilities have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Dementia is often the reason that people can’t care for themselves, and the reason they lose touch with the ones they love.
I refocused our SimpleC project, and now it is a tablet-based app that helps people rediscover memories and keep their minds alive. Our team started by defining over 60 symptoms of cognitive decline, and SimpleC matches them to 2,800 tablet-based media therapies. The therapies have personal pictures, recordings of friends, popular culture and even games that help patients tap into what they’ve retained. Our clinicians tested the therapies, and the results were truly inspiring.
But I wanted SimpleC to help the families of chronic patients, too.
Finding the right words
One of the biggest barriers that families face in healthcare is simply the medical language that surrounds it.
Now, families and caregivers can tell the SimpleC app how a patient is doing. A daughter might say, “My dad is not sleeping well. He misses my mom and sometimes he forgets who I am. It upsets him.” If regular counseling isn’t an option, traditional practice might be sedation. But SimpleC analyzes statements without medical terms, and can recommend options like a sleep program. The app’s list of symptoms and treatments offers proven alternatives to drug-based prescriptions.
Before 2010, we couldn’t have done this. But now we can use cognitive and mobile technology to create something that lets anyone—patients, families and healthcare workers—find the right words.
Editor’s Note: Read more from Dan about how SimpleC is changing patient care. Watch the video below to hear more from Dan and learn how SimpleC is helping change care options:
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