Modular measurement wristband for personalized dementia therapy

June 1, 2018, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft
Sample view of a shape-adapted electronic layout in the wristband. Credit: Fraunhofer IZM / Volker Mai

Dementia is an age-related disease that is becoming ever more prevalent as demographics change. It affects primarily people over the age of 80, with this group accounting for more than 70 percent of all dementia sufferers. Caring for these patients is an enormous challenge for their families and caregivers, especially since, in most cases, key health data lacks any useful structure and is not available when it is needed. It is hoped that a miniaturized, modular measurement and advisory system being developed in a joint project that includes Fraunhofer researchers will soon ease this situation. The system uses inconspicuous sensors to automatically measure dementia patients' health and care data and suggests personalized treatment options based on their current condition.

There are nearly 1.6 million patients in Germany today, two-thirds of whom suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Each year, around 300,000 new cases are diagnosed. Dementia develops slowly, which often makes it difficult to recognize the disease or to distinguish it from other changes that normally occur as we age. Those affected become increasingly helpless and must rely on care. Diagnosing the disease as early as possible means better care for the patient and greater scope for influencing the progression of the disease.

An early warning system provides greater security in patient care

Currently, however, documentation of patient care data lacks any useful structure, so important information that could trigger preventive measures is frequently not available when it is needed. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM in Berlin, in collaboration with partners from industry and research, thus launched the PYRAMID project (see box) to develop a new care approach aimed at stabilizing and improving the quality of life of people with dementia and their families and, working closely with caregivers and doctors, offering greater patient security: a miniaturized, modular measurement and advisory system in the form of a wristband automatically measures the requisite health and care data of the dementia patient with inconspicuous, barely perceptible sensors. Based on the data it collects, it then suggests and implements personalized treatment and care options for the patient. Erik Jung, a physicist at the Fraunhofer IZM, explains the approach: "The goal is to discreetly accompany patients over the course of years, from the first tentative diagnosis through to clinical treatment, to put up-to-date information at their fingertips, increase patient autonomy and give them the opportunity to stay in their familiar environment for as long as possible." With the new measurement system, any deterioration in a patient's condition can be caught or predicted in good time and the relevant information provided to caregivers.

Sensors record vital signs and movement patterns

The system measures vital signs, such as heart rate and body temperature, as well as heart rate variability and skin resistance. It also records external parameters such as outdoor temperature, brightness and volume level. In addition, the wristband records patients' movement patterns. If, for instance, a patient hardly moves at all anymore, or no longer leaves his or her home, this suggests that the dementia is progressing. In addition to the parameters the wearable technology records, questionnaires completed by family members are analyzed and incorporated in the diagnosis. All data is encrypted in accordance with telemedicine guidelines and observing data protection regulations and transmitted via Bluetooth to a documentation system, then made available – via a mobile app, for instance – to everyone involved in the care process.

The measurement system is fully integrated in a wristband that discreetly houses all the sensors and electronics. A microcontroller records the data, and a Bluetooth module, a rechargeable battery, a USB port and an NFC antenna that acts as an automatic door opener round out the system. The Fraunhofer IZM researchers in the project are tasked with implementing the hardware, selecting the multifunctional measurement components and microintegrating the sensors. Concept and design studies have already been completed and a demonstrator is currently being built. "The first design demonstrators have already undergone testing and were well received by patients. Further tests on volunteers will be conducted later this year," says Jung. "We are confident that the measurement system will enhance patient care, improve cooperation among everyone involved and ensure that emergency situations – such as when a patient falls – are detected sooner.

Explore further: Study finds delay in initial dementia diagnosis

Related Stories

Study finds delay in initial dementia diagnosis

March 15, 2018
A study conducted by a multidisciplinary Spectrum Health neurology team has found that dementia patients are not undergoing evaluation at the onset of the dementia process, a delay that prevents early, beneficial treatment.

Health care reform and EHR design should be built around patients' goals

March 13, 2018
Meaningful reform of primary care should not only address the provision, documentation and payment of care; it should be based on patients' goals for their lives and health, with corresponding redesign of electronic health ...

Hospitals often missing dementia despite prior diagnosis

April 24, 2018
Hospitals in the UK are increasingly likely to recognise that a patient has dementia after they've been admitted for a different reason, finds a new UCL-led study, but it is still only recognised in under two-thirds of people.

Clinicians should address needs of family caregivers of persons with dementia

December 5, 2016
More than 15 million family members and other unpaid caregivers provide care to persons living with dementia in the United States. Yet the current healthcare environment and reimbursement models emphasize obligations toward ...

Patients and caregivers value caring, continuity, and accountability in care transitions

May 14, 2018
In the transition from hospital to home, patients and caregivers seek clear accountability, continuity, and caring attitudes across the care continuum.

One type of dementia is especially costly

October 6, 2017
(HealthDay)—A type of early onset dementia known as frontotemporal degeneration appears to take an even more punishing toll on family finances than Alzheimer's disease, a new report suggests.

Recommended for you

Hypothesis underpinning dementia research 'flawed'

October 16, 2018
A hypothesis which has been the standard way of explaining how the body develops Alzheimer's Disease for almost 30 years is flawed, according to a University of Manchester biologist.

Many cases of dementia may arise from non-inherited DNA 'spelling mistakes'

October 15, 2018
Only a small proportion of cases of dementia are thought to be inherited—the cause of the vast majority is unknown. Now, in a study published today in the journal Nature Communications, a team of scientists led by researchers ...

Scientists create new map of brain region linked to Alzheimer's disease

October 8, 2018
Curing some of the most vexing diseases first requires navigating the world's most complex structure—the human brain. So, USC scientists have created the most detailed atlas yet of the brain's memory bank.

Previously unknown genetic aberrations found to be associated with Alzheimer's progression

October 8, 2018
In a large-scale analysis of RNA from postmortem human brain tissue, researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Columbia University have identified specific RNA splicing events associated with Alzheimer's ...

Periodontal disease bacteria may kick-start Alzheimer's

October 4, 2018
Long-term exposure to periodontal disease bacteria causes inflammation and degeneration of brain neurons in mice that is similar to the effects of Alzheimer's disease in humans, according to a new study from researchers at ...

AI could predict cognitive decline leading to Alzheimer's disease in the next five years

October 4, 2018
A team of scientists has successfully trained a new artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm to make accurate predictions regarding cognitive decline leading to Alzheimer's disease.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.