15-Year-Old Invents A Sensor To Keep Alzheimer's Patients From Wandering
When Kenneth Shinozuka was 4 years old, his beloved grandfather, Deming, started to show signs of Alzheimer's disease. Just a few years later, Deming started wandering in the middle of the night, and after an incident in which he wandered onto a freeway, Shinozuka knew something needed to be done.
Shinozuka explains in the 2014 NBC News segment below that he tried to find a device that would quickly alert him when his grandfather wandered out of bed, but to no avail. He then decided to take matters into his own hands and created a sensor that reacts to pressure. He attached the sensor to the bottom of a sock to be worn by Alzheimer's patients as they sleep. The second the patient's foot touches the ground, the sensor sends a signal to a cell phone to alert caregivers or family members of wandering. The sock sensor is so effective that it detected each of the 437 recognized cases of Deming's wandering during the first six months of wearing the socks, and it did so without any false alarms, according to NBC News.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 5 million Americans are living with the disease, and it estimates that by the year 2050, the number of people living with Alzheimer's in the United States could reach 13.8 million. With statistics like that, it's not hard to see why Shinozuka's invention has so much potential to help people.
In 2006 research by Dr. Jane Tilly and Dr. Peter Reed for the Alzheimer's Association, the statistics on the number of Alzheimer's patients that wandered are a bit unclear. Tilly and Reed claim that estimates of the prevalence of wandering range from 6 percent to 100 percent. But the Alzheimer's Association now reports a more definitive figure: "More than 60 percent of those with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia will wander, and if a person is not found within 24 hours, up to half of individuals who wander will suffer serious injury or death."
This sensor will also relieve some of the burdens that caregivers experience in caring for Alzheimer's patients, which was one of Shinozuka's goals after having seen what his aunt went through to care for his grandfather. He says in the segment below, "My grandfather has lost the capability to eat by himself, to walk by himself, definitely to write and read. He can barely speak anymore. So it's very hard. It's also very hard for my aunt, his primary caregiver, since she's the one who has to take care of him all the time."
While the sock sensor only targets one of the many behaviors tied to Alzheimer's disease, it has the potential to keep wandering patients much safer — something that caregivers and family members of patients will be quite relieved to hear. Shinozuka doesn't plan to stop here, though, explaining to NBC, "I'd like to solve some of the mysteries of the brain, and invent tools to ultimately, I think, cure Alzheimer's and other mental conditions that our aging population suffers from." Shinozuka may only be a teenager, but his innovativeness, intelligence, and compassion are far beyond his years.
§ Safe Wander via YouTube, "Falls, Wandering, and Physical Restraints: Interventions for Residents with Dementia in Assisted Living and Nursing Homes" by Dr. Jane Tilly and Dr. Peter Reed, and Alzheimer's Association