Best support for cognitive disorders: 50 million informal caregivers

San Andreas 03 September 2008The future of the US economy will, to a large degree, depend on a good solution for the largest problem: the runaway cost of healthcare. One of the worst problems in the healthcare segment are the brain, mind and neurological disorder based illnesses. The veterans returning from Iraq, 1.6 million served so far, have developed PTSD (300,000 cases) and depression (another 300,000 cases)

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The brain and mind oriented so called cognitive disorders include: PTSD, ADD, ADHD, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, bipolar, depression, strokes etc. Mind stimulating interactive games would be great help to reduce the severity of these problems. The family and informal caregiver can become the one who takes the mind oriented interactive games, then plays with the care recipient, thus lowering the cost of medicine. A good overview is at gamesforhealth.org

The caregiver can also help the care recipient to participate in clinical trials and do the necessary reporting. The monitoring of the general condition and vitals of the care recipient even when the caregiver is not on location can be accomplished via the Web by the ConnectR product of irobot.com or similar video capable Web terminal products allowing tele-conferencing so the care recipient would not feel alone.

In a recent statement the family caregiver organization says it well: "There are more than 50 million family caregivers in the USA and they provide 80 percent of the long term care services to the 100 million homebound people in need of care. These uncompensated services provided by the caregivers amount to more than 400 billion dollars annually."

One of the best ways to maintain and even improve one's health, in addition to the approved medical procedures, is mind-body interaction. It is a well established fact that when a person who is ill gives up and does not fight and try any longer, that person simply drifts away and expires.

This is especially true for the so called homebound people, the ones who need care. The combination of the people of the world who are either in need of care, like the frail elderly, the chronically ill and the disabled, or the providers of informal care like family and friends amount to half the population of the world. One third of the world's population is in need of care from family and friends and one sixth of the world's population are these caregivers. The professional studies which deal with mind-body interaction are called PsychoNeuroImmunology and NeuroPlasticity.

The ultimate purpose of this game, is to attend to the problems of care recipients and their caregivers.

We have a short book which describes the ideas, political and technical, of a system of how to bring about the health benefits of mind-body interaction resulting from cognitive and collaborative use of interactive games of skill on the Web, especially on the newer Web 2.0 (version 2) which is more like a person-to-person, social connection Web rather than just the finding and downloading of information in the style of Web 1.0. It is a well studied and analyzed fact that one of the best ways to improve and maintain better health of the people who are in need of care is involvement. This involvement can be either cognitive or collaborative. Both require involvement which increases the activity of the mind, thus improve mental and physical health. Both can be achieved via Web version 2.0.

One of the potential best ways to collaborate and get involved with cognitive activities is via the use of interactive games. But not games of chance, which are too stressful and stress is bad for health. The most helpful games are games of skill. Most card games like poker are based on, to a very large degree, on pure chance, and maybe some psychology to bluff and read the other players. But the chance element: what kind of cards a player may be dealt dominates the game. So we need a pure game of skill in which the chance element is totally eliminated. The problem is that chess is too complicated, checkers is too simple and Sudoku is a little artificial.

This project proposes a new game of skill based on the rules and purpose of poker, which is well known throughout the world, but, instead of chance, the play is performed based on rules of skill. This is a true story of such care recipient, Janine, a quadriplegic wife, and 24/7 caregiver husband, Laszlo, the inventor of board-based poker games: MindPowerPoker.

It should be noted that everybody can use MindPowerPoker in any and all its forms, not just the people in need of care and their caregivers. Of course we have, under final stages of development, a board version, a Wii version as well as an on-line contest version of the MindPowerPoker game.

About the author

I had gained deep insight into the requirements of the people in need of caregiving and their caregivers when I worked for John Garamendi, now Lieutenant Governor of California, then State Senator.

I have many years of personal experience using AT (assistive technology) and found it very helpful in SPMS (secondary progressive multiple sclerosis) conditions as described below in a brief review of my personal experiences.

In addition to my extensive experience with AT, I also have related graduate credentials from both California State University at Northridge (the center for AT corporate interactions) as well as CSU in Sacramento and UOP, University of the Pacific in Stockton.

To compensate for a total loss of motor skills due to Multiple Sclerosis (MS), I have focused on the development and performance of mental tasks. I write articles. I create books, I play Scrabble all with the help of my caregiver-hero husband Laszlo. We watch DVD movies and documentaries from Netflix, a great service indeed, and listen to magazines and books on tape provided by the Library of Congress, another worthwhile service to people with disability, delivered at no charge. Then we discuss the content of these publications.

I am absolutely sure I am avoiding the onset of cognitive problems, dementia and Alzheimer's. I firmly believe that using my brain in activities requiring the mind will continue to keep me productive in spite of my severe physical disability. My husband even jokes that I am causing him to develop Alzheimer's because I remember all the phone numbers, all the names, all the activities in which we have participated, so he gives himself permission to forget such information.

My husband reminds me frequently that "no one is disabled when on the Internet, when one interacts via the Web". So I use him as my VoxBot (voice robot) and KeyBot (a keyboard robot) when I want something quick via the Web.

I am the luckiest person on the face of the earth, as Lou Gehrig so appropriately announced in his farewell speech, that I am surrounded by the support of my hero husband, my family and my friends and they all appreciate my mind and ignore my physical disability.


Janine M. Lodato

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