Center for Outreach in Alzheimer’s Aging and Community Health (COAACH)

N.C. A&T's COAACH Wins Third in National Challenge

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (Oct. 7, 2019) – A team from the Center for Outreach in Alzheimer’s Aging and Community Health (COAACH) at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University won third place in the Improving Care for People with Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Using Technology (iCare-AD/ADRD) Challenge. 

COAACH’s team provided the prototype for Caregiver411, a mobile application that addresses caregiver isolation and caregiver burden. 

“We often see primary caregivers put aside their own needs when caring for their loved ones, and may express a lack of assistance and support from other family members,” said Kristen Naney, Ph.D., COAACH research professor and challenge team lead. “Also, many of these caregivers experience stressful situations including financial, mental health, or legal issues while they provide support.”

The team’s prototype application allows family members and long-distance caregivers to stay informed and connected in real-time through a private chatroom and offers a feature for users to send audio or text messages. Additionally, the application provides access to a resource center that gives caregivers and loved ones the ability to ask experts questions about topics including legal assistance and financial planning.

“I’m am very proud of our team and what we accomplished by presenting solutions to these common challenges,” said Naney.  

The challenge is NIH’s first Eureka prize competition, which was included in the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act. The Eureka competition is designated for biomedical science that could realize significant advancements and/or improve health outcomes in diseases and conditions that have a disproportionately small research investment relative to expenses for prevention and treatment, represent a serious and significant disease burden, or for which there is potential for significant return on investment.

“The intent of this challenge was to spur technological innovations so that the overall quality of dementia care could be improved,” said NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. “By enabling more effective management of dementia care overall, we anticipate that such innovations could have the potential to improve the quality of life of those living with dementia.”

An estimated 5.6 million Americans age 65 or older are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and thousands more live with related disorders such as frontotemporal, vascular, Lewy body, and other dementias. Because the care of people with these diseases is complex and can involve multiple care settings, care providers, and interventions, new technologies offer the potential for aiding people in the care spectrum, including people with dementia, professional and family caregivers, health care providers, and health care service organizations.

As part of the challenge, NIA received 33 applications for mobile device applications or web-based methods that could help people coordinate and/or navigate the care of dementia. Applicants could either develop new technology applications or make improvements to existing apps. Applications were submitted by both individuals and teams, including researchers from the field of aging and other individuals, start-up companies, and biotechnology firms.

The judging was based on five criteria: creativity and innovation, rationale and potential impact, value to relevant stakeholders, usability, and functionality and feasibility. The winners will share a total of $400,000 in cash prizes:

  • First-place prize awarded to MapHabit: This mobile software provides behavior prompts with customizable picture and keyword visual maps to assist memory-impaired people with accomplishing activities of daily living. The care management platform employs different interfaces depending on whether the user is a person with impaired memory, caregiver or long-term care community manager. Caregivers can monitor adherence to medication schedules or track other activities.
  • Second-place prize of $100,000 awarded to a team from the University of California, Los Angeles, led by David Reuben, M.D.: The web-based Dementia Care Software system, which was developed with High5LA in Los Angeles, helps specialists deliver care to many people with dementia. Because dementia requires both medical and social services, care management can be complex. The case management software, which integrates with the electronic health record system, has already been used at UCLA to coordinate the care of thousands of people.
  • Third-place prize of $50,000 awarded to a team led by Naney: The Caregiver411 mobile device application enables dementia caregivers to foster social connections through a messaging center and obtain tailored resources related to mental, emotional, physical, social, legal, and financial concerns. The app also enables caregivers to find local health specialists and other professionals. By connecting caregivers and family members with targeted information, the Caregiver 411 app can help people make informed decisions at each stage of the dementia care journey.

COAACH’s team included Alzheimer’s researcher Grace Byfield, Ph.D., mobile application development advisor Christopher Doss, Ph.D., and doctoral candidate in Industrial and Systems Engineering Janetta Brown.