Learn all about two young inventors who discovered special products to help Alzheimer’s patients live a wholesome life.
Alzheimer’s patients have several challenges that they have to tackle in their day-to-day life. Losing track of where they are going and experiencing cognitive impairment are two common issues that caregivers often have to constantly worry about. Here are two smart inventions that stemmed from inventor’s who had loved ones that battled the Alzheimer’s condition. Both the inventors, Kenneth Shinozuka and Sha Yao wanted to come up with products that can help both Alzheimer’s patients as well as their caregivers to live healthier, happier lives with dignity.
Kenneth Shinozuka was a mere 4 years old when his grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They were walking in a park in Japan when his grandfather got lost and Kenneth recalls it as one of the scariest incidents of his life. The years following the diagnosis, his condition worsened to the extent that his grandfather would wander around the neighbourhood at night. Initially he wouldn’t wander more than a few blocks from the house but as the condition progressed, his wandering became worse. This was causing a lot of stress to his aunt, with whom his grandfather stayed and Shinozuka was compelled to help his family.
One night, a police officer knocked on the family’s door to inform them that the patient was found walking near the freeway. This scary incident triggered Kenneth to find a solution to keep his dear grandfather safe. He tried to find products that can help that situation but found none. Unable to find a device that quickly detects wandering, the curious teenage decided to make his own. His invention was a sensor that triggers an alarm on a smartphone when applied pressure on.
Kenneth got an internship with the Alzheimer’s association and after extensive research he was able to find the apt material and created a film sensor that can be fit snugly in a patient’s sock. When the patient gets up and starts to wander, the sensor detects the pressure put on it and triggers an audible alarm on the smartphone that it is connected to. This indicates that the patient is on the move. The technology was tested on his grandfather and a group of patients in assisted living homes and found a 100% accuracy rate.
Caregivers can keep track of patients by taking turns to check on them during the day but this can be a difficult task at night because everyone needs their rest. The sock with the sensor can be worn by patients in the night. As soon as they start to wander, the sensor triggers an alarm on the caregiver’s phone to alert him that something might be amiss.
With over 5 million Americans being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, about 60% of them wander off at some point or the other in their life. This can be stressful for both the patient and the caregiver and finding an apt solution for this was long overdue. Keeping a check on the Alzheimer’s patient during the day can be done by caregivers on a shift basis, but at night, keeping a constant tab can be unreasonable.
Kenneth’s pressure sensor invention has already been noticed and approved by several noted American journals. He even won the Science and Action award from Scientific American Magazine. The invention, which was inspired by 15 year old’s love for his grandfather, could help in keeping several dementia patients safe.
Kenneth recently gave an inspiring talk at TED to convey his message and display his invention. Kenneth’s product is sure to aid millions of Alzheimer’s patients around the world. At the age of 6, an elderly family friend fell in the bathroom and suffered severe injuries. This incident triggered him to invent a smart bathroom system with motion sensors that are installed into bathroom tiles to detect severe falls. Since he was only 6 years old then, he didn’t have the tools to progress this invention.
Kenneth’s love for sensor technology was his way of giving back to his grandfather and helping the millions of Alzheimer’s patients around the world. Kenneth wishes to continue using technology to come up with apt solutions to help people live healthily and happily in the future.
San Francisco Academy of Art graduate Sha Yao noticed how everyday tasks became a hassle for her grandmother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s patients often experience cognitive impairment which makes everyday tasks like eating difficult. While caring for her grandmother while she was alive, she noticed that she wouldn’t eat as much as she requires for her health to remain stable. After her grandmother passed away, Yao volunteered at a center for patients living with Alzheimer’s and noticed that many of them had difficulty in using regular tableware.
Sha Yao came up with a creative way to tackle this problem- a 7-piece tableware set designed to allow Alzheimer’s patients and other patients with cognitive impairment to feed themselves comfortably. There are over 20 special features in each Eatwell set and every design detail was conceptualised from the four years of extensive research and development that went into creating the products. The most noticeable feature of the tableware are the bright colors used for every piece. This stems from a Boston University research that discovered that 24 percent of Alzheimer’s patients eat more food and 80 percent more liquid when the color of their tableware is red or blue. The visual contrast in the utensils stimulates the patient’s brain to stay focused on eating. She implemented this in her products and designed a colorful range of Eatwell anti-slip bowls and curved spoons that these patients can easily use to feed themselves.
All the bowls in this special tableware set have a right angle side that allow the food to gather towards one side of the bowl and ensures spills are avoided. The spoons are designed to fit the special curve of the bowl to allow for better scooping action. The special gripping material below every tableware product prevent them from slipping or tipping over. The range also features two special cups- one with a rubber base that stabilizes it to prevent tipping and the other with an extended handles that attaches to the base for firm placement. The cup and cutlery handles are designed with large handles to provide a better grip for the patient. The set also comes with a tray that can clip a bib to catch any food spills so that clothing stains are prevented. Every product is designed to ensure that the patient can continue the simple act of eating with dignity.
Yao hopes that the Eatwell tableware will make mealtime an easier experience for Alzheimers patients and their caregivers. “Raising awareness and addressing the needs of people with impairments will allow them to maintain their dignity, retain as much independence as possible and reduce the burden on their caretakers,” Yao told the design website Fast Company. “That’s what made designing the Eatwell tableware set so rewarding.” She hopes that these products can help people like her grandmother live happier and healthier lives.
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