Student Invents App to Aid Alzheimer’s Patients

A Notre Dame College student’s new invention could offer support to caregivers of an aging population facing Alzheimer’s disease.

Ian Dawson ’15, a marketing major at Notre Dame, has envisioned a new application for an existing technology to create a monitoring system for patients of Alzheimer’s, even autism and Down syndrome. The electronic program is unique to the point that he is pursuing a number of patents to protect his intellectual property.

Dawson recently won a $1,200 grant from the seed capital fund and business accelerator Shaker LaunchHouse and has started his own company, MEMcare LLC, to develop the technology so that the monitoring system could be commercially available to the public. He now is working to attract potential investors to develop a marketing and manufacturing plan for the new application.

The idea behind Dawson’s entrepreneurial enterprise is to enable the use of popular electronics, such as a cell phone, tablet or laptop computer, to track the movements and vital signs of an Alzheimer’s patient without a caregiver needing to be at the exact same location all of the time. In addition, the application can send alerts to caregivers, offer call center and emergency support and provide medication reminders.

Dawson said Notre Dame faculty members Vincent J. Palombo, DBA, assistant professor of business administration and chair of the business division; William L. Leamon, MBA, assistant professor of marketing; and Michael J. Cackowski, M.S., assistant professor of mathematics, have played huge roles in inspiring him to pursue his idea. They encouraged him to attend two entrepreneurial events where he was given the opportunity to explain his idea to possible investors. At one of the events, he won the competition and the grant.

"The professors never turned me away. They were always of the mindset: We can find a way," Dawson said. "They are so excited to see me doing something great. I would not be doing anything without them."

Dawson said the inspiration for his business venture came from a story his mother, who works as a health care aid in Cleveland, told him about one of her patients. His mother said a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s has placed sticky notes all over her home. The memos direct her days throughout the house, so she stays safe and busy and does not wander away. Each reminder instructs the patient on what to do in each room and where to go next in the house after she has completed that specific task.

Dawson’s grandmother also has Alzheimer's, so the illness and the potential of his application hit home for him.

"I have put a lot of time into this, researching all the technologies, Alzheimer’s in America, provisional patents," Dawson said. "I already have experience most people don’t. If I don’t go into business by myself, I can still talk to employers about what I have done. I can find a job a lot quicker than other graduates now."

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