RAZ Mobility is a provider of mobile assistive technology, and the developer of the RAZ Memory Cell Phone, which helps people with dementia stay in touch with their friends and family.
In a recent survey, RAZ found that almost half the respondents had visited a loved one with dementia significantly less because of COVID-related visitation restrictions or or out of worry of passing on the virus. Additionally 49% said their family member frequently has difficulties using a phone. We asked RAZ Mobility's CEO Robert Felgar how they are helping to overcome this problem.
How has the pandemic impacted people with dementia and their loved ones?
According to our survey, nearly half of all people with family members who have dementia reported that they have significantly reduced the number of in-person visits to their loved one. COVID-19 has significantly increased the loneliness and isolation experienced by people with dementia. In addition to the psychological pain created by such loneliness, it has reportedly also caused the dementia or Alzheimer’s to progress faster than it otherwise would.
For many, technology such as iPads and Zoom calls provided a lifeline, but what about for people with dementia?
Dementia is progressive. So in the early stages they can use technology, such as an iPad or Zoom. However, eventually the complexity will be too much. For example, they will have difficulty recognising the various app icons on the screen. They may also repetitively purchase the same product, forgetting that they ordered it yesterday.
With a phone, they may become very vulnerable to telemarketers and individuals determined to defraud vulnerable seniors. Individuals with dementia may eventually have other problems when using telecommunications. For instance, they may repetitively call 911 reporting imagined emergencies. They may also become disoriented and develop the habit of calling in the middle of the night.
How can the RAZ Memory Cell Phone help?
It is specifically designed for people with intellectual disabilities, especially dementia and Alzheimer’s. It is a super easy-to-use device that consists of one screen. There are no apps, settings or distractions, whatsoever. The caregiver, rather than the user, controls all aspects of the phone through an online portal. Very soon the caregiver will also be able to control the RAZ Memory Cell Phone with an app.
What functions does it provide that make it easy to use?
The caregiver can place up to six contacts (with an option for up to 24), displayed as photos with names underneath, on the screen. To place a call, the user simply presses the photo. No other features are available.
The senior cannot leave this simplified environment, the volume rocker does not work, and volume is always set to maximum. There is no lock screen, and the power button can even be disabled.
The caregiver can go to the online portal (and soon the app) and add or edit contacts, prevent incoming calls from everyone other than contacts, check battery level and signal strength, and enable GPS tracking in case the phone gets lost or the user wanders off.
From November, the RAZ Memory Cell Phone and the app will also offer video calls, a reminder system, quiet hours (the ability to prevent calling during certain hours, especially in the middle of the day) and being able to customise the way that a call is activated.
RAZ Mobility also has an emergency service, how does it operate?
We created this service after learning that quite a few people with dementia call 911 and report imagined emergencies. When this happens the family may feel forced to take away the phone.
With our service calls go to a private dispatch service rather than 911. When the call is made to this service, text messages are sent to the caregivers providing them with the ability to cancel the emergency call. This prevents unnecessary calls from going to 911.