LeadingAge Magazine · July/August 2013 • Volume 03 • Number 04

App Up! Providers Create Mobile Apps to Help Caregivers

July 01, 2013 | by Gene Mitchell

These providers have ventured into the app world, giving caregivers, potential residents or clients handy references and links to services.

How could your organization benefit if a client or resident could carry it in his pocket? If a family caregiver could have it handy in her purse?

Are mobile apps the wave of the future for aging-services providers? Time will tell, but they are certainly the wave of the present for the culture as a whole. The number of mobile apps available right now for iPhones, Androids, Windows phones and various other phones and tablets is probably unknowable because it is growing so fast. That it is vast is unquestionable. According to ZDNet.com, as of June 2013 there were about 850,000 iPhone apps and 350,000 iPad apps available, and Google had about 700,000 available. Apple claims there have been more than 50 billion downloads from its App Store since 2008, Google 48 billion. Less-popular platforms like the Blackberry and the Windows phone each have at least 120,000 apps available. The mobile apps business is rapidly approaching the $30 billion level.

According to Statista, 8.3% of the downloads from the Apple App Store in January were in the “lifestyle” category, and 2.6% in the “health and fitness” category. And the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported last year that 52% of smartphone owners gather health information with their devices. Less than one year ago it was estimated that there were more than 40,000 health-related apps available, so there’s little doubt that the number has been eclipsed since then.

MorseLife, West Palm Beach, FL, launched its app, “The All,” last summer and, according to James Glenos, director of the MorseLife Learning Institute (MLI), it’s been downloaded about 500 times since. Promising “All of MorseLife Right in the Palm of Your Hand,” the free app has separate sections for each of its service categories, with easy contact information liberally scattered throughout. The All features sections on:

  • Long-term care
  • Short-term rehabilitation
  • Home care
  • Independent and assisted living
  • Adult day care
  • NP2U (Nurse Practitioners to You)
  • Just Checking! (Geriatric Care Management)
  • Meals on wheels
  • Neighbor2Neighbor (a social activity, transportation, caregiver support and referral service)
  • The Nearly New Thrift Shop
  • MorseLife Learning Institute

Users can join the MorseLife Honors Program, get information on making donations, look up job openings at MorseLife, and more. Staff (with log-in) can take mobile courses for CEU credits from MLI.

The best way to access the iPhone version of The All is via the App Store on your iPhone or in the iTunes software (searches on the Web version of the App Store do not work well). Use “MorseLife” as the search term. Droid users should go to Google play and search for “MorseLife.”

The app is the result of a strategic planning meeting.

“Three years ago, we were brainstorming and asked, “What would be something to enhance or serve the community better?” says Glenos. “There were at least two dozen ideas. I had the idea of creating an app. We put together a business plan for each idea, and then voted on which would come to fruition.”

Balance: by the National Alzheimer Center,” the app created by The Hebrew Home at Riverdale in New York City, was the brainchild of David Pomeranz, executive VP/strategic planning and program development. As the son of an Alzheimer’s patient, he saw the need to bring caregiving information to one place that can be utilized in real time.

Launched in March, Balance has been downloaded more than1,000 times by caregivers from 14 countries. The app, which costs 99 cents, is available only on the Apple platform. Designed specifically for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients, its functions include:

  • Learning topics: facts about Alzheimer’s, including stages, sensory effects, memory effects, and more.
  • Caregiving tips, including financial and legal information plus self-care tips for caregivers.
  • A “Pill Box” function to keep track of medications.
  • A calendar.
  • A “Doctor Diary” to log changing or unusual behavior from a loved one.
  • Links to media articles about dementia.
  • Ability to list family members or professional caregivers, and allow syncing of schedules, pill boxes and more between members.
  • Links to donation information and the Hebrew Home website.
  • An “NAC Store” link to a variety of products for caregivers.

A recent USA Today article on mobile apps for caregivers features Balance.

Both organizations see family caregivers as their primary users. Balance, says Pomeranz, “was designed to help family members better manage caring for an Alzheimer’s patient by facilitating ongoing communication among multiple caregivers, tracking and sharing changes in real-time with the patient’s doctors, learning about the latest developments in the disease and getting vital information about what to expect as Alzheimer’s progresses in their loved one.”

MorseLife sees the typical users of its app as Palm Beach County residents who are children of seniors in need of care—or who may be. “Our name is pretty big in the area,” says Glenos.

“Once we decided to go for it, within three months we had a working prototype,” says MorseLife’s Glenos. The organization hired an outside consultant to create the app.

A couple of revisions to the original (iPhone) version were necessary, to meet Apple’s requirements. For one thing, says Glenos, the original look of the app was too close to Apple’s own proprietary style. After five months, the app was ready and made available at the Apple App store.

“There’s a lot of nitty gritty things—size restrictions and a full-page list of do’s and don’ts,” says Glenos.

Once the Apple version was up, Glenos says, MorseLife began shopping for an Android developer. The problem was solved unexpectedly by an enterprising graphic designer on the MLI staff, Kristen Evans, who took it upon herself to learn how to code, thus keeping the work in-house.

The Hebrew Home hired a company called Elucidate, which specializes in app development for business productivity and healthcare. Pomeranz says the creation of the app was a relatively elaborate design and engineering process, “much like other sorts of product development.”

There are plans to update both apps, but neither update is imminent. Hebrew Home wants to make Balance available on the Droid platform. MorseLife would like to make the donations function easier, perhaps add online shopping functions (the organization runs a thrift shop), and include more “patient teaching.”

Editor’s note: Does your organization have its own mobile app? If so, LeadingAge magazine wants to try it. Contact Editor Gene Mitchell at GMitchell@LeadingAge.org.