Monday, August 5, 2013

A Review of PARKINSON'S CENTRAL - A Smartphone App for Parkinson's Disease

Not long ago, I learned that the National Parkinson Foundation was releasing an app for Parkinson's Disease.  "Seriously?" I thought..., "There's an app for that?"  Diagnosed five years ago with a young family, we discovered that my "hott-hubby" Dan would have to live with this neuro-degenerative disease for which there is no cure.

I have to admit that this whole world of smartphone apps somewhat mystifies me; so, how can the National Parkinson Foundation come up with something that can really help people with Parkinson's?  This 48-year-old-grey-haired-Hott-mama-of-four has troubles operating my Samsung Galaxy Note much less loading AND using an app for Parkinson's Disease.

"PD" belongs to a group of conditions called motor system disorders, which are the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells.  Symptoms include tremor, rigidity, or stiffness of the limbs, brandykinesia (slowness of movement) and impaired balance. As these symptoms become more pronounced, patients may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks, according to the National Institute of Health.  Considering the physical challenges of PD, how will patients be able to successfully operate a new smartphone app?

Not only that, but what about the technically challenged healthy folks out there like me!?  My kids (ages 8 - 23) taught me that there is an app for just about everything!  For example, when we visited Universal Studios, they all had apps to learn the wait times for everything from roller-coaster rides, the Minion Mayhem, to Hogwarts!  When I recently ventured to a One Direction concert with Violet, our 13 year old daughter, Caity, now 23, loaded an app on my phone to help us maneuver around the metro in Washington, DC.  I have even seen her use her smartphone app to by coffee at Starbucks.  Golly!

So, after Violet loaded PARKINSON'S CENTRAL, "a free, easy-to-use smartphone app that people with Parkinson's and their caregivers can use to access Parkinson's-related information wherever and whenever they need it", I began a journey of discovery on new telemedical adventure.  Here's what I learned:

*  It's is NOT hard to use!  Once I overcame my clumsiness with something new, I found myself breezing through the tabs on PARKINSON'S CENTRAL and learning useful tips for both patients and caregivers!

*  The format design is colorful and creative!  You know, there is so much information available online these days that sometimes it all seems to be one big mumble-jumble for me.  PARKINSON'S CENTRAL is cleverly designed with eye-catching tabs that effortlessly steer you around the app.

*  The information is current and applicable!  Whether you are recently diagnosed or have been living with this crazy chronic illness for years, PARKINSON'S CENTRAL introduces relevant and informative medical advice for patients at ALL stages of PD.

In conclusion, I know you must be thinking it.  Go on and admit it!  I was.  So hear goes:  How exactly does the National Parkinson's Foundation expect patients, with tremors and other physical challenges, to operate this new app, PARKINSON'S CENTRAL?  Manipulating their way around a hand held smart phone is sure to be a difficult task for many patients with PD, especially those who can sometimes find it difficult to button a blouse or buckle a belt.  Hopefully, a PD patient will find this new app available when their meds are "on" or a patient caregiver nearby.

Hummmmmm....  maybe someday a true smartphone will project an app that won't require specific hand/eye coordination.  Wouldn't that be cool? Rather than requiring a PD patient to use a shaking finger to drive around the PARKINSON'S CENTRAL app, maybe some sort of phone projection could easily be swiped in the air, somewhat like you see in the crime lab at Hawaii 5-0.  Hey, and while I'm at it, what about a sensor that will recognize the soft spoken Parkie out there?  Maybe someday our iPhones will have Nurse Siri to "tune" into the questions and difficult speech patterns of PD patients.

If my kid's Kinnect game can see them play games, judge performance, or race Mario with kids around the world, could a smartphone app detect a PD patients severity of symptoms, medical needs, tremors, weakened muscles, stiff limbs, shuffled gait, physical challenges, soft voice?  If Wii Fit can challenge ones balance skills in Yoga, why not?!  Imagine technology where a PWP can stand in front of a monitor in a remote location like the West Virginia hills and be examined by a neurologist around the world.  Kinda reminds me of Kinnect's DANCE CENTRAL of today becoming the PARKINSON'S CENTRAL of tomorrow.

But, that's for another time, I guess.

Until then, give your PARKINSON'S CENTRAL app a try and let me know what you think!

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