“The foundering search for an Alzheimer’s cure is fueling a parallel quest by technology companies to help patients and caregivers cope with the disease. The quest is to help patients and family caregivers cope with the disease by using virtual reality software, robotics, and novel communication tools. The solution is not simply developing tools to manage patient symptoms, but to deliver better support to family caregivers who are collectively spending more than $500 billion annually to care for elderly relatives.
“‘If we do not support the role of family caregivers and value them in this process, there is nothing we can do to bend the cost curve beyond what we’re doing,’ said Thomas Riley, chief executive of Seniorlink, which developed a digital communication platform to help coordinate care for Alzheimer’s patients.
“Technology firms are also selling digital products to help patients: A company called Dthera Sciences has built a therapy that uses music and images to help patients recover memories. The product analyzes facial expressions to monitor the emotional impact on patients and discover the sounds and visuals that provide the greatest relief.
“Another firm, Ageless Innovation, has developed robotic cats and dogs that help to treat the depression and social isolation that so often afflicts people with Alzheimer’s. Ted Fischer, the company’s CEO, said Wednesday that research conducted by Pace University showed the products resulted in better patient outcomes across several measures, including a reduction in hospitalizations. “And it produces joy and meaningful connections for these patients,” Fischer said.
“The pharmaceutical industry has racked up a long list of failures in recent years, with many drug candidates following a similar narrative. A promising treatment in early-stage research turns out to be a flop in late-stage trials, putting investors, patients, and caregivers on a roller coaster that always ends in disappointment and a return to the drawing board.
“Fischer and other technology executives (have) said their products are neither panaceas nor substitutes for a hoped-for pharmaceutical breakthrough that could reverse or prevent the symptoms of the disease. But they also urged public and private funders to step up investments in technology solutions that, in the short term, represent the best option for patients and families.”