New app for dementia patients offers wellness activities, lets public help those lost to alert caregivers

Madam Wong Lai Quen, who signed up for the new app in May, and her husband Steven Lau, a dementia patient. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Worried about her husband, who was diagnosed with dementia eight years ago, Madam Wong Lai Quen, 63, wanted something to help stimulate his mind when she was at work.

So she signed up for an account on a free mobile app aimed at helping dementia patients seek out activities and programmes that would mentally stimulate them.

Named Cara, the app also has a safety feature. If her husband, Mr Steven Lau, 65, gets lost and forgets his way home, anyone who comes across him can scan a QR code on his Cara membership card to alert Madam Wong that he has been found.

Besides an e-card, patients are issued a physical card that they can display on their clothes or belongings.

Caregivers link their own Cara account to that of their loved one with dementia.

The app was developed by Dementia Singapore in partnership with the National Council of Social Service (NCSS), the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) and tech company Embreo.

Madam Wong said that her husband used to often roam around their neighbourhood, patronising markets and his favourite coffee shops.

But in recent years, he spends his days at home while she goes out to work.

To keep him occupied, Madam Wong looks up the app's library for wellness programmes and activities that he can join.

The list includes a programme by CareLibrary that offers brain exercises, games and music engagement specially to improve or maintain the cognitive wellness of someone with dementia.

The app also recommends dementia-friendly places in Singapore. Since signing up for the app in May, Madam Wong has taken Mr Lau to Sentosa a few times, visiting attractions like the Trick Eye Museum. They have also been to Gardens by the Bay.

With his Cara card, Mr Lau gets into these attractions for free, while Madam Wong, as his caregiver, pays a discounted entrance fee.

She said: "People with dementia really need to get out of the house. They need to socialise, meet other people and work on activities, like the rest of us.

"If they are stuck at home all the time without doing anything, they can deteriorate very fast."

Named Cara, the app also has a safety feature. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

Mr Lau said he is happy to find the various activities on the app.

"It really encourages those with dementia to be physically and mentally active," he added.

Since its soft launch in April, the app has had 1,000 sign-ups. Dementia Singapore aims to triple the number of members within the next six months. Membership is free but patients and caregivers will have to fill in a form and wait to be verified before they can enjoy the app's offerings.

The organisation's chief executive, Mr Jason Foo, said Cara represents its commitment to delivering innovative care solutions to the dementia community.

He added: "What sets Cara apart from any dementia membership programmes in the world is the utilisation of technology to facilitate the safe return of a person living with dementia swiftly back to his or her family when things go wrong."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.