Buddy Technology

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Project Details - Ended

Summary:

The percentage of adults over the age of 65 is increasing and will make up 20 percent of the population by 2030. This subset of the U.S. population is living longer with more than half of older adults choosing to forgo institutional care and remain in their homes. One impact of this rapidly expanding older adult population is a significant increase in caregiving responsibilities being performed by family and friends. These demographic trends highlight the need for innovative support systems for family members and their caregivers. To address this need, investigators created and tested technology to aid in the care of patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease. The contract worked to enhance the Florida Institute of Technology's research, development, and evaluation of Buddy Technology, and the technology's applicability in the care of patients with Alzheimer's disease.

The objectives of this project were as follows:

  • Provide lifelong engagement for the aging caregiver through the use of a virtual support network. 
  • Foster sharing of the responsibilities associated with caregiving by electronically linking family and friends to aging family members. 

Investigators developed a handheld technology called PocketBuddy that can be used to record patient behaviors and the emotional well-being of the caregiver, document daily activities and events, and schedule appointments and personal events. Two Web interfaces were made available to the caregiver’s support network. One interface allowed for the customization of PocketBuddy, for example entering new or revised prescriptions and their instructions. The other interface, BuddyBlog, provided daily information about the caregiver and loved one and was retrieved from the PocketBuddy database. The customized blog provided summary data about the day’s events, the caregiver’s well-being, and the patient’s behaviors.

Eight older adults aged 65-89 years, including two spousal caregivers of patients with Alzheimer's disease, volunteered to learn and use PocketBuddy in their homes for 1 to 4 weeks. Following installation of the information and communication technology systems in the home and the introduction of PocketBuddy, no major technical problems were encountered. Each participant used PocketBuddy regularly, with a mean of 1.4 daily entries. Caregivers expressed satisfaction with the system overall, with PocketBuddy’s data collection and alerting functions, and with the potential usefulness of the data presentation in the BuddyBlog to themselves, their families, and their health care professionals.