Senior woman with nurse at home

Researchers from three U.S. universities and the Regenstrief Institute are developing and testing an app, Helping the Helpers, to help caregivers manage medications for dementia patients and other patients who manage medications themselves.

Helping the Helpers is a user-centered, evidence-based app developed by the University of Indiana, University of Wisconsin, Purdue University and the Regenstrief Institute scientists with input from caregivers.

Study author Richard Holden, Ph.D., said the team of scientists is asking caregivers to send his team information once or twice a day to give them an idea what caregivers go through when dispensing medication to patients.

“It can be a photo, a video, an audio file or a written memo. It might be a photo of the large number of medications that have to be managed,” Holden said. “It might be a video of a patient refusing to take medications. We analyze this input and its an important component of our participatory co-design with caregivers’ innovation.”

Managing medications for Alzheimer’s patients can be confusing and time-consuming because many patients take multiple medications daily. People who are cognitively impaired can be resistant to taking medications and can become belligerent, contributing significantly to caregiver burden and stress. The combination of factors can lead to mistakes in managing medication for those patients. The researchers said they are taking all of these factors into account in developing the app.

“There are countless numbers of medication management apps currently available that support a variety of tasks, but very few are developed and designed for caregivers with specific attention to caregiver needs,” Noll Campbell, PharmD, M.S., of Regenstrief Institute and Purdue University College of Pharmacy, said in a statement.

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates approximately 6.5 million Americans age 65 and older are living with Alzheimer’s disease. More than 21 million people provide unpaid care to those patients.