This startup leverages IoT technology to protect Alzheimer's patients from wandering

Andreas Rekdal

An estimated 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association — and that number is likely to keep rising as members of the baby boomer generation get older.

One of the most common problems associated with dementia is the risk of becoming disoriented or confused and getting lost. “Wandering,” as it is commonly known, affects sixty percent of Alzheimer’s patients at some point, and can be very dangerous.

CareBand, a Chicago startup, makes wearables that protect people living with dementia from wandering.

“Our focus is really on creating technology that helps seniors stay safe and independent, in the least restrictive manner, for as long as possible,” said founder Adam Sobol.

Developed for use in assisted living facilities, CareBand uses a network of beacons and proprietary software to help caretakers keep an eye on where residents are inside a facility. If the wearer falls or appears to be walking off the premises, caretakers are automatically notified. And in the event that a patient does end up getting lost, CareBand can help the nursing staff find the patient right away.

Declining to share how CareBand tracks wearers outside the beacon-equipped facility, Sobol said the technology can find them “basically anywhere.” The company’s wearables are currently undergoing field trials at several assisted living facilities.

One of the key goals in designing CareBand, said Sobol, was ensuring that the technology blends in with the environment and doesn’t feel like a gadget. The wearable is a waterproof wristband with a long-lasting battery that transmits information automatically without any user input.

User-friendliness was key in designing the accompanying app as well.

“People working at these facilities have varying education levels, so while designing it we went through a lot of different changes and feedback sessions,” said Sobol. “It’s all about making it as simple as possible.

“It’s all about making it as simple as possible,” said Sobol, adding that his team went back to the drawing board several times to remove unnecessary features. “The reality is that people aren’t going to be staring at this all the time or playing with it, trying to figure it out. It needs to fit into however they do business right now.”

Beyond keeping patients safe from wandering, CareBand can be used to improve the care provided to residents at assisted living facilities as well. By analyzing data on how many times patients get up in the middle of the night, for example, caregivers can find out if a patient has contracted an infection.

These kinds of analytics are particularly useful in treating patients suffering from memory loss, because they may not be able to self-report about issues that are detrimental to their quality of life.

Sobol said he started working on CareBand while studying at Indiana University. After getting his master’s degree in information systems from Indiana University Kelley School of Business in May 2016, Sobol moved to Chicago and took the four-person company with him.

“I had a few internships up here and went to meetups at 1871 and Matter,” said Sobol. “It’s a great startup city. There’s a lot of resources, a lot of great people, a lot of events and innovation — the whole deal.”

Images via Shutterstock and CareBand.

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