By: Natalie Price

Wellness , Techie

Dementia is a term used to describe a set of symptoms that can occur when certain diseases damage the brain. Symptoms include deterioration in memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to perform everyday activities. The most common cause of such symptoms is Alzheimer's disease. According to the World Health Organization, there are now 47.5 million people who have dementia, with another 7.7 million diagnosed each year. It is estimated that the number of people afflicted with this condition is going to double in the next 20 years to 75.6 million and triple to 135.5 million by 2050!

With no treatment or cure presently available, the growing concern is for people living in low- and middle-income countries who have limited to no ability to pay for some of the expensive monitoring solutions that are currently in the marketplace. 

Dementia causes great stress to families and caregivers, especially due to the dangers of wandering. More than 60% of those with dementia will wander and if they're not found within 24 hours, up to half of individuals can end up seriously injured and in some instances have a fatal accident. 

In the United Kingdom, where I live, over a quarter of UK hospital beds are occupied by someone with dementia. An estimated £700 million could be saved annually if the duration of hospital stays were reduced. Wandering is likely to cause injury to the sufferer and in turn result in hospital admittance. Therefore a product like the Proximity Button would not only make the lives of those caring for people with dementia more manageable but it would save the UK economy millions.

It's very important that we let those living with dementia carry on their lives normally and remain as active as possible. Therefore, products to aid walking and combat wandering are a vital part of dementia care. When I started thinking about this problem in 2014, the numbers were at 44-million, which goes to show how quickly this syndrome is growing. 

The idea for a product to help with wandering was actually inspired by my mum. My mum's cared for people with dementia for around 15 years and has always shared stories with me. In doing so, she highlighted the real issue with wandering.

We believe that everyone should have the ability to protect the people they care about the most. We approached the product and user experience of Proximity with the following principles in mind: 

  • SIMPLICITY: protecting your loved ones shouldn't be difficult.This is why we designed the Button and the Proximity app to be as easy to use as possible. We didn't want to pack it full of features that would over complicate it. Our sole aim with the Button is to warn carer's to wandering. If a loved one is wearing the Button and they leave your side, you will know about it far quicker than if they weren't wearing it. Simple.
  • DISCRETION: traditional devices to prevent wandering will come in the form of a bracelet or a pendant. We realized in our early-prototype phase that these would not be suitable for our customers. People with dementia can often become upset by things that they aren't familiar with. The Button is so small and light that the wearer will barely notice it therefore avoiding the issue of upset and removal.
  • AFFORDABILITY: we want everyone to be able to keep their loved ones safer. Therefore we ensured our product remained affordable for all. The Button is not a tracking device and therefore doesn't rely on expensive technology. 

Other products on the market currently available to help with wandering are GPS tracking devices. Whilst these are great for some people they are extremely expensive. Prices start from £80 and have monthly subscription costs. Proximity is a very simple and affordable solution. Proximity is not a tracking device, it is a warning device and it's very simple; if a person is wearing the Proximity Button and they wander too far from their carer and their smartphone, the carer will know about it far quicker than if they weren't wearing it. They are therefore less likely to wander to a distance that is going to put them in danger.

Below is a list of supporting documents and different ways people can help:

PRIORITY #1: Raise awareness of dementia in your community

Dementia is now a world health crisis - it's vital we raise awareness in our communities as more families become affected by it

PRIORITY #2: Convene with community leaders!

Work with city officials to make your community dementia-friendly

PRIORITY #3: Support the crowdfunding campaign!

We just launched our crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo! You can either support us by donating to our campaign or you can even pre-order a Proximity Button!

  • I have always loved working alongside people. To support myself in my journey with Proximity, I am working at a digital marketing agency as Creative Production Assistant. My role involves working alongside creative to create video and photography content. I have worked on a wide variety of brands including Sony, Persil, Durex, Virgin Trains, Finish, Bosch, Clearasil, Canon and Infiniti. My vision is to use tech for good.


How Proximity Works

The Proximity Button is a small magnetic badge that is worn by your loved one. It's a simple device that will allow you to worry less and relax more. It has a smart sensor that connects to your mobile device. 

If a loved one or someone you care for tends to walk off when you’re out and about (one minute they’re there, the next they’ve disappeared), Proximity could be just the answer. Whether your in the house or at a busy supermarket, the Proximity Button can alert you to your loved one walking off far quicker than if they weren't wearing it.

If you're outdoors in a big open space the Button will alert you at about 65 feet (20 meters). If you're inside, for example in a busy supermarket, the alarm will go off a lot quicker because walls and people will get in the way of the signal and block it far sooner – around 32 feet (10 meters).

Connected to your iPhone or Android device, Proximity alerts you when the Button wearer wanders too far from your side. Proximity is a simple way to keep your loved ones out of harms way.  The app has been carefully designed to suit all ages. Connecting to your Button takes a matter of minutes with handy images to guide you through the set-up.

Advice for my peers

I might be stating the obvious but it really is hard starting your own business. The past 6 months are probably the most stressed I have ever been. You have to keep pushing it forward because it's your idea, no one is going to make you do it, and that can be tough. You have bad days but the good far outweigh them - there's nothing more exciting than seeing your own idea come to life and to hear other people speak positively about it too.

ENTREPRENEURS SHOULD HAVE A PURPOSE, NOT JUST AN IDEA: Starting my own business isn't actually something I've always wanted to do.  Having watched my dad run his own business my whole life, I knew just how stressful and challenging it could be. It wasn't until I realized I had a product that could potentially change people's lives that I became really passionate about starting my own business. Suddenly i really cared about something and it was this motivation that drove me forward and got me to where I am today. 

TURN TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY FOR SUPPORT: A huge amount of support has come from my dad. He has been great at guiding me and encouraging me to stay positive when it's been tough. It's hard to keep yourself motivated and keep things moving so it's vital you have the support of friends and family. It's also important to talk to people when you're stressed about something - a clear perspective on something often solves problems a lot more quickly.

IF YOU'RE STRESSED DO NOT KEEP IT TO YOURSELF! Have a friend that you can talk to about everything, even if all they do is listen, it can really help to put things into perspective. My boyfriend was great at making me see the bigger picture!

PROTOTYPE. TEST. LISTEN: We've done lots of testing to ensure our prototype works but there is still further testing to do yet. We know that each wandering case will differ slightly. It's important we get user case studies to learn as much as possible from each of them and adjust and improve according to this. We predict that our product could help thousands of people who live with the daily stress of wandering.

YOUR MARKET MAY BE BIGGER THAN YOU FIRST ANTICIPATED: Proximity was originally developed for people with dementia. It wasn't until we launched our crowdfunding campaign and people reached out to us in regards to their Autistic children, that we realized Proximity could help a lot more people!

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