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MGH Institute of Health Professions

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MGH Institute Nursing Faculty to Use iPhones to Help Alzheimer’s Patients

Boston, MA, January 20, 2012 --( School of Nursing faculty Diane F. Mahoney, PhD, APRN, BC, FGSA, FAAN, has been awarded a $180,000 grant from the Alzheimer’s Association in which she will develop a system using iPhones to help people with Alzheimer’s Disease get dressed easier and function more independently longer.

Dr. Mahoney and her team have created a system called Development of a Responsive Emotive Sensing System, or DRESS. It will use iPhones installed into the front of each dresser drawer, using both visual and spoken word prompts, to instruct patients to open each drawer in sequence and eventually dress themselves.

“Alzheimer’s patients lose the ability to perform everyday functions like dressing and eating,” said Dr. Mahoney, the Institute’s Jacque Mohr Professor of Geriatric Nursing Research, and Director of Gerontechnology Research & Development. “We hope that DRESS can extend activities for them for a few additional months.”

Struggles over daily dressing tasks are upsetting both to the person with Alzheimer’s and to their caregivers, she said, most often adult children who work and must leave their loved one alone at home for long periods of time.

Dr. Mahoney currently is conducting focus groups and telephone interviews with caregivers to gather insight on how to create a working prototype of the interactive dresser. Potential options include adding a privacy camera so caregivers can monitor how a person is progressing through the dressing process.

“It is only through adept research and tireless dedication by those such as Dr. Mahoney that huge strides have been made in Alzheimer care,” said James Wessler, President & CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association, Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter. “Efforts like those of Dr. Mahoney are making Alzheimer’s more manageable for individuals affected by the disease, as well as easing some of the burden on the caregivers.”

Dr. Mahoney is a geriatric nurse practitioner, senior social science researcher, and gerontologist. Her main interest is in conducting applied research that informs elder caregiving, geriatric practice, and health policy. Her work has been featured in Gerontechnology, American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease & Other Dementias, Journal of the American Geriatric's Association, Alzheimer's and Dementia, New England Journal of Medicine, The Gerontologist, Geriatric Nursing, and other publications.

MGH Institute of Health Professions, founded by Massachusetts General Hospital in 1977, is an innovative and independent graduate school in Boston that operates within the framework of Partners HealthCare System. More than 1,100 students are enrolled in graduate level and certificate programs in nursing, physical therapy, communication sciences and disorders, and medical imaging, with an increasing number of courses available online. The Institute is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.


(Editors: Our style preference is to not spell out "MGH" on a first reference to our name, as it incorrectly implies the Institute is a department within the hospital. Alternately, we recommend, “MGH Institute of Health Professions, a graduate school founded by Massachusetts General Hospital …”)
Contact Information
MGH Institute of Health Professions
John Shaw
(617) 726-4276

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