Smartphone system helps Parkinson's disease sufferer

By John Cousins

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Maria Johnston and her father Norman Twidle with the new system designed to make the "small stuff" in life possible. Photo/George Novak
Maria Johnston and her father Norman Twidle with the new system designed to make the "small stuff" in life possible. Photo/George Novak

A Tauranga Parkinson's disease sufferer is enjoying new-found independence since he volunteered to trial a simplified smartphone-based system developed by his daughter.

Norman Twidle, a diabetic in the early stages of the degenerative brain disease, found that his forgetfulness meant he was becoming more and more homebound and reliant on his wife Rose.

But one of the features of SmartCare meant he could now get out and about independently. If he forgot how to get home, all he needed to do was to touch the "take me home" window of the SmartCare system installed on his smartphone.

The Google satellite navigation system sprang into life and guided him back home by voice commands.

"It is quite easy to use even though I have Parkinson's. My memory is not as good as it used to be and I tend to get lost a bit."

Mr Twidle can thank his daughter Maria Johnston who was inspired to develop SmartCare by her parents' situation. "It enables caregivers and patients to live more independently," she said.

The other major innovation that helped Mr Twidle was SmartCare's "reminders" section in which he can bring up all his daily tasks, including appointments and taking his pills and insulin. He then ticks them off by a touch of his finger on the screen.

And if an emergency occurred while Mr Twidle was out on his mobility scooter or at home alone, he can trigger an alert straight through to family members by touching the "emergency" section of his phone.

Another feature of SmartCare was that his smartphone was always connected to family members who could log on via their smartphones, tablets or laptops to see where he was on the Google map and whether he had taken his pills.

His married daughter, who holds a degree in information technology, launched SmartCare yesterday. While the system was still in its early days, it provided enough functions to take the simplified system to the market.

She said SmartCare made the small stuff in life possible for people with mild cognitive impairment.

"Things that you and I may take for granted."

It was not designed for people with advanced Alzheimers.

The idea came to her about 18 months ago but things did not really start to happen until she attended a business start-up weekend in Tauranga. Since then she has formed a team, developed the product and incorporated the company.

"There has been a lot of hard work."

Details of the system can be found on the company website smartcarehq.com

- Bay of Plenty Times

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