Apps aid in care of ailing relatives

NEW YORK — As her mother and father edged toward­ dementia, Nancy D’Auria kept a piece of paper in her wallet listing their medications.

It had dosages, time of day each should be taken, and a check mark when her folks, 10 miles away, assured her the pills had been swallowed.

‘‘I work full time so it was very challenging,’’ said D’Auria, 63, of West Nyack.


Now she has an app for that. With a tap or two on her iPhone, D’Auria can access a ‘‘pillbox’’ program that keeps it all organized for her and other relatives who share in the caregiving.

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‘‘I love the feature that others can see this,’’ D’Auria said. ‘‘I’m usually the one who takes care of this, but if I get stuck, they’re all up to date.’’

From GPS devices and computer programs that help relatives track a wandering Alzheimer’s patient to iPad apps that help an autistic child communicate, a growing number of tools for smartphones, tablets, and laptops are catering to beleaguered caregivers. With the baby boom generation getting older, the market for such technology is expected to increase.

The pillbox program is just one feature of a $3.99 app called Balance that was launched last month by the National Alzheimer Center, a division of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in the Bronx.

‘‘We thought there would be an opportunity here to reach caregivers in a different way,’’ said David Pomerantz, executive vice president of the Hebrew Home. ‘‘It would be a way to reach people the way people like to be reached now, on their phone.’’


The app also includes sections for caregiving tips, notes for the doctor, and the patient’s appointments, plus a ‘‘learning section’’ with articles on aspects of Alzheimer’s and an RSS feed for news about the disease.

Trackers are also important tools for Alzheimer’s caregivers.

Laura Jones of Lighthouse Point, Fla., said she was able to extend her husband’s independence for a year and a half by using a program called Comfort Zone.

‘‘He was just 50 when he was diagnosed,’’ she said.

Using Comfort Zone, which is offered by the Alz­heimer’s Association starting at $43 a month, she was able to go online and track exactly where he was and where he had been.


Her husband carried a GPS device, which sent a signal every five minutes. If Jones checked online every hour, she would see 12 points on a map revealing her husband’s travels. She would also get an alert if he left a designated area.

Eventually, the tracking revealed that Jones’s husband was getting lost.

‘‘He would make a big funny loop off the usual route and we knew it was time to start locking down on him,’’ she said.

Lisa Goring, vice president of Autism Speaks, said tablets have been a boon to families with autistic children. The organization has given iPads to 850 low-income families. And the Autism Speaks website lists hundreds of programs — from Angry Birds to Autism Language Learning — that families have found useful.

Samantha Boyd of McCon­nellstown, Pa., said her 8-year-old autistic son gets very excited when the iPad is brought out.