Tech Brings Some Relief to Sufferers of Alzheimer’s

By Akudo McGee 6 Min Read

How could I miss out on writing an article about an awesome lady hero on International Women’s Day?! Okay, so this article won’t come out today but just know that I was writing this article on International Women’s Day, didn’t execute the whole article publishing thing well, and can’t wait to tell you about this amazing girl and her startup!

For many of us, either as we age ourselves or become caregivers for those who are aging, aging is both a beautiful and terrifying process. The thought of losing your self-looms constantly over your head during your golden years but this is even more true for those suffering from debilitating memory loss, like Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, which is a kind of memory loss that also includes the loss of many brain functions. It is perhaps the most well-known memory disorder due to how common it is; 5.5 million Americans live with the disease. Unfortunately, there is no cure and the disease worsens over time. What may start out as forgetting to finish a task, can turn into forgetting friends and family and personality changes.

Struggles with diseases like Alzheimer’s can be extremely difficult and painful for both the sufferer and their family. This is where 14-year-old Emma Yang comes in. Yang developed an app called Timeless which helps people with Alzheimer’s keep track of events, maintain connections with loved ones, engage in everyday planning and recognize loved ones.

Timeless is a first-of-its-kind, simple, easy to use the app for Alzheimer’s patients to remember events, stay connected and engaged with friends and family, and to recognize people through artificial intelligence-based facial recognition technology

To log into the app the user can use their fingerprint via the Touch ID feature, they will not be asked to remember a username or password to access it. Once logged in, the user is taken to a Homepage. The Homepage has three features: Updates, Today and Photos.

On the Updates page, users can access events or photographs that are uploaded by their loved ones. Once an event is selected, they can view the collection of photos for that event. Using artificial intelligence, Timeless’ facial recognition software automatically tags the people in the photograph to help the user remember who they are. The relationship of the person can also be accessed along with their name, in case the user has forgotten how they are connected.

The Today screen shows the date, weather and upcoming events for the day. The Photos option shows, you guessed it, photos. The photos, which identify each person using facial recognition software help the user to remember their friends and family and what they look like.

The app also has a Contacts section, which shows a photograph of each contact, a description of who they are and their name. This means that users will not be asked to remember specific information like phone numbers nor will they be left guessing who someone is by their name or photo alone.

After selecting the person they would like to contact, the user can then call or text them from the app. There is also a feature on the Contact page that reminds users if they have called the same person in the past 5 minutes. This is important because many suffering from Alzheimer’s may have forgotten that they just called and spoke with someone and thus repeated calling is quite common.

Photographs taken in the app will automatically identify the person captured using facial recognition software. Once the photograph is taken, the software will place a name with the face and also a description of the person (like "daughter"). In the event that the patient forgets who they are, there is a Me function which gives the patient access to a photograph of themselves as well as basic information about who they are.

If this all seems a little complicated to you, don’t worry! The caregiver controls the app. That way, even if the user doesn’t remember who everyone is or who they themselves are, the caregiver can add friends and family members to the app, enter in events and add images of the people in the user’s life.

Photos of loved ones or events can either be added by the caregiver, taken by the user themselves or added by friends and family who have been invited to the app, encouraging an active role for the user and their care circle.

There may be no cure for Alzheimer’s yet but apps like Timeless are using technology to ease the struggles of living with the disease.

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