Public Release: 

A pocketful of help for Alzheimer's sufferers and caregivers

Professors to develop PocketPC and Web technologies

Florida Institute of Technology

MELBOURNE, Fla.--Florida Tech Professor of Psychology, Dr. Frank Webbe, and Dr. Annie Becker, director of the Florida Tech National Center for Small Business Information, received $200,000 from the Alzheimer's Association (in partnership with Intel Corporation and Agilent Technologies) to study the use of PocketPC and Web technologies to promote quality of life for Alzheimer's patients and caregivers. The project is one of four funded internationally under the Alzheimer's Association's program for "Everyday Technologies for Alzheimer's Care."

The researchers will develop a portable caregiver support system called PocketBuddy. The system would issue audio and text reminders to the caregiver, which could include medication information, appointment reminders and automated checklists for daily support. Also embedded could be such information as bill paying instructions, the location of important documents and emergency contact names. Family and friends might access information about patients and caregivers via a Web log, a "Buddy Blog," linked to the PocketPC. This technology could bridge the time and space barriers, which often separate loved ones.

"Combining expertise in psychology and information systems/computer science, we hope to ease the burden and reduce the isolation of Alzheimer's caregivers who care for their family member at home," said Webbe.

Becker brings the technology skills to the interface appearance and system usability. She will also supervise the creation of the software that will control the device. Becker will lead a team of computer science student researchers, staff and community volunteers in developing the home and Web system components and conducting usability studies of their use by older adults.

Webbe provides knowledge of the disease and of caregiver and patient issues as well as the experimental design and analysis of outcomes. He will lead a team of psychology student researchers, a social worker and community volunteers. The team will recruit and train participants and validate the use and acceptance of the technology.

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The three other projects funded under "Everyday Technologies for Alzheimer's Care" grants of approximately $200,000 each, are also by university researchers. They are at Carnegie Mellon University, University of Arizona and Oregon Health & Science University.

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