Today practically everyone uses a smartphone or tablet. To support our fast paced lives, Americans are downloading mobile apps to help us track everything from our personal spending and productivity to our diet, exercise and mood. More than 44 million health-related apps were downloaded in 2012, so it should come as no surprise that apps for caregivers are a fast growing market. More than 50 million Americans care for an aging or disabled loved one a year according to a study by National Alliance for Caregiving and Evercare.
We asked caregiver author, Ann Napoletan, to review some caregiver apps to help families determine which ones might be right for them. Ann is uniquely qualified to judge the merits of these apps. She writes terrifically for the Caregivers.com blog and cared for her late mother who had Alzheimer’s disease for nearly a decade.
She said she would have loved to have had some of these apps to help during her time as a caregiver. Only a few years ago these apps didn’t exist and Ann had to resort to do-it-yourself organizing: “During the course of my mom’s illness, I tried every trick in the book to keep myself organized – from old-fashioned pen and paper and Post-it notes to Excel spreadsheets. I even had reminders to add things to my list of reminders!”
Here are the seven apps that we reviewed, including information about their features, the devices for which they’re available, and our overall opinion of their usefulness and value. Of course every caregiver’s needs are different, so don’t necessarily rule out an app we didn’t praise or count on a highly praised app to work perfectly for your family.
iPhone: Yes ($.99) | iPad: yes ($.99) | Android: No | Web app: No | Ann’s full Review
Balance: For Alzheimer’s Caregivers is a versatile app geared specifically caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Alzheimer’s disease reference and information
- Alzheimer’s caregiving and advice
- Advanced medication management features, such as refill date, start date, dosage, and so on
- Uses the iPhone and iPad’s native scheduling features, but adds categories relevant to caregivers
- “Doctor diary” for logging symptoms and taking notes that may be relevant at the next’s visit
- News about Alzheimer’s disease
Pros/Cons: Ann found the app to be useful, but found some areas that could use some improvement: “I did note some shortcomings. Patient profile information is limited to name, birth date, and gender, and the app lacks a contact list, sharable to-do list, and file storage capability. I also feel that having a companion website increases usability significantly, but unfortunately a user’s only window into Balance is through the smartphone app.”
iPhone: Yes ($4.99) | iPad: No Android: No | Web app: Yes ($19.95 per month or $199.95 per year) | Ann’s Full Review
Ann was utterly impressed with Caregiver’s Touch calling it a sanity saver and writing, “Where was this when I needed it?” It has a huge number of features. Here are just a few. You can learn more in Ann’s review.
- Log of essential information for your loved one, including birthdate, SSN, blood type, military history and other such info
- Calendar for caregiving events that accommodates for caring for more than one person =
- Medication management, including doses, schedule and other important information
- A place to store insurance information such as policy numbers and policy types
- Caregiving contact list
- Medical history log
- Supports sharing information with family members so that you can coordinate care
- Security features to protect private information
Pros/Cons: To get the most out of Caregiver’s Touch, it needs to be used in tandem with the web app, and this subscription costs $19.95 per month, or $199.95 per year, making it more expensive than any of its competitors.
iPhone: Yes (free) | iPad: Yes (free) Android: Yes (free) | Web app: No | Ann’s full review
Ann was quite pleased with CareZone features, and also the fact it’s free. Note that since the publication of Ann’s review, they have since added an Android version.
- A care profile to log all pertinent information about loved one who is receiving care
- Invite friends and families to join you and become “helpers”
- A shareable task-list to help you keep on track
- A shareable journal, which includes ability to log observations and upload photos to keep loved ones up to date about the elder’s well-being
- Medication tracking, “to keep a list all meds, dosages, purpose, prescribing physician, pharmacy, RX number and more.”
- File storage service so that you can share files with loved ones about elder’s care
- What’s called a “CareZone broadcast” that allows you to “send a recorded voice message to up to 100 recipients.”
Pros/Cons: Ann was disappointed the app did not track medication schedules or send reminders, although she contacted the makers and those features are in development.
iPhone: No | iPad: No | Android: No | Web app: Yes (free)
Caring Ties offers many of the features you would expect in an application for caregivers, but it’s strictly a web based application rather than one designed to run specifically on your device. That means that you can access it with any modern, internet connected smartphones and tablets but that it is not downloaded from an application store. This app might be best for someone who does not have a smart phone or tablet, but can access the internet on a PC or laptop.
- Reminders, for example, to test blood sugar
- Note taking about loved one’s well being
- Log medical information such as blood pressure
- Share information with loved ones, and including setting different levels of access for different loved ones
- List of medications
Pros/Cons: Caring Ties seems to run well on a desktop version but it was somewhat clunky when tested on an iPhone. The makers advertise the web-only factor as a benefit, noting, “Even if you accidentally spill a drink on your device there’s nothing to worry about,” but other apps offer both a dedicated app and in the cloud storage, so this argument is somewhat dubious.
iPhone: Yes (free) | iPad: No | Android: No | Web app: Yes | Ann’s full review
Mobicare is a simple, straightforward and free iPhone that Ann wasn’t impressed with. Ann said the app had some notable shortcomings, but it has some potentially useful features. As a free app, it can’t hurt to try if any of its features appeals to you. It may be worth checking on in the future too, as app developers constantly work to improve their product by releasing updates.
- Profile of loved one who is receiving care including birth date, gender, basic insurance information, and the contact information for one physician
- Basic symptom tracking based on 15 preset choices (i.e. insomnia, wandering, etc.)
- Basic medication tracking but with some limitations
Pros/Cons: Ann said that cons included the lack of a calendar, contact list, control over what other caregivers have access to, bugs within the app, and the extremely limited functionality of the web version of the app.
iPhone: Yes ($9.99, free trial version available) | iPad: No Android: No | Web app: No
RX Personal Caregiver is all about medications. Despite its name, it does not have features one might expect from a caregiving app except for the medication reminders other drug related features. It may have the best medication related features of all the caregiver apps but it doesn’t have any other caregiver related features.
- Detailed medication management support, including tracking doses, dosage, refills and so on
- Missed dose instructions
- Guide to more than 15,000 drugs
- FDA alerts for recalled medications
Pros/Cons: The apps sole focus on drugs makes it unsuitable as a caregiver’s sole app. It may be work in concert with another app in cases where medication management is particularly important or challenging, but most caregivers will not find this app useful unless their only need is medication management.
iPhone: Yes (free) | iPad: Yes (free) | Android: Free | Web app: no
Unfrazzle is marketed as a caregiver app, although was difficult to determine upon first inspection. After spending more time with it, we were able to see that it’s highly customizable and personalizable tool that could be quite helpful for caregivers. It could also be used for other productivity and “life-hacking” purposes as well. That said, it requires the user to invest significant time in setup and customization to get the most out of it.
- Create to-do list and journals
- Track anything and everything you like (i.e. weight over time, mood, etc.)
- Connect with other family members and share information and responsibilities
- Highly customizable
Pros/Cons: The app is highly flexible and makes no cookie-cutter assumptions about the user and his or her needs, but it is also quite complex and might be somewhat imponderable to less tech-savvy users. There is a steep learning curve and the user interface is less than intuitive. Still, the app is young and its developers seem eager to improve it, so we expect it will become a stronger and more accessible tool over time.
Do you use any of these apps, or others, to stay organized as a caregiver? Do you prefer to keep track of things the old fashioned way? We welcome your comments below.