Last month, I reviewed two smartphone apps created specifically with caregivers in mind.  Both CareZone and MobiCare are tools that I could have definitely made use of during the years my mother struggled with Alzheimer’s.  These apps provide a whole new efficient, effective way of staying organized.

Balance: For Alzheimer’s Caregivers

This month, I’m taking a look at a new app from the National Alzheimer’s Center, a division of the Hebrew Home at Riverdale whose mission is to provide creative, cost effective solutions. Balance: For Alzheimer’s Caregivers, is available for download from the iTunes store at a price of $3.99.

Getting started is as simple as creating an account using your email address or Facebook account. Once the app is launched, the user is presented with icons labeled Learning, Caregiving, Pill Box, Schedule, Doctor Diary, News, and Family. It’s a nice, clean streamlined look, but I was a little let down by its usability.

Tips, News, and Information Features

Learning – Provides an Alzheimer’s overview along with information on topics such as cell damage, various stages of the disease, long-term memory, diagnosis, and understanding the patient.

Caregiving – Provides information and tips on subjects like agitation, hygiene, incontinence, communication, meals, finance/legal matters, medications, wandering, and caregiver health among others.

News – Quick access to the most recent news stories regarding Alzheimer’s.

Tracking and Organization Features

Pill Box – Tracks medication name, RX#, refill date, start date, dosage, and schedule with four configurable dosage times and space for free form text. The Pill Box also includes a reminder feature that can be turned on or off.

Schedule – This calendar uses the standard iPhone date/time selection screen as well as preset categories from which to choose (medical, dining, family, et cetera). Multiple views include today, list, day, and month. The tool allows for scheduling of repeating appointments and provides space for freeform notes as well as a reminder feature that can be turned on or off.

Doctor Diary – Use this tool to track notes on moods, behaviors, or medical issues by selecting a predefined entry type, assigning time/date, and choosing from a list that includes pacing, physical aggression, speech difficulty, agitation, paranoia, dizziness, pain, and falls among others. Users can also enter freeform text notes as needed. A handy feature is the ability to create an email right from the app that includes a link to a summary report for the past week, month, 2, 3, or 6 months. This could be used to update your loved one’s physician or other family members, but keep in mind there is no security around it. Anyone with the link can view the report.

Family – This area of the app allows users to define profiles for multiple individuals being cared for and to invite an unlimited number of caregivers via email. It also displays an audit trail of caregiver activities within the app (i.e. created appointment, added a med, emailed a doctor diary, et cetera).  Caregivers can send real time chat messages that are displayed on the activity log, but they are embedded within the audit trail entries and can easily blend in and get lost.

Improving Organization and Opening Lines of Communication

I did note some shortcomings. Patient profile information is limited to name, birth date, and gender, and the app lacks a contact list, sharable to-do list, and file storage capability. I also feel that having a companion website increases usability significantly, but unfortunately a user’s only window into Balance is through the smartphone app.

The Balance app is certainly a useful tool for caregivers, aiding in better communication and improved organization. With some additional tweaks and enhancements, it will be even better!

If you’ve used a caregiver smartphone app, leave a comment and share your experience. What worked, what didn’t? Which app would you recommend to other caregivers?

 

 

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