WLOS: As mother battles dementia, daughter works with AI to improve communication

Her mission is personal. She spoke with News 13 from her parents’ home at Lake Junaluska as her mother battles the disease.

“Mom's always been very talkative throughout my entire life.”

But it’s less so now after being diagnosed with dementia.


“The verbal part of this is really important because having those conversations are really meaningful,” says Anna.

Her expertise is developing Artificial Intelligence.

“I am working with the team at CareYaya,” she says.

That's a research lab advancing health equity for older folks with dementia and family caregivers.

She and her colleagues are prototyping an AI system. It uses mobile electroencephalogram (EEG) technology to translate brainwave patterns.

To read brain signals a headband is worn.

“Kind of like Star Trek a little bit. This is like the Muse 2.”

Anna says the goal is to train a machine-learning model to recognize brain signals and eventually populate an image of what her mother -- and potentially millions around the globe with dementia -- are thinking about.

“If she's thinking about a water bottle, like a water bottle and then have like the word under it, but also the ability to press it and hear the word. Hopefully to like jog her memory and allow her to better communicate with family members,” Anna says.

As technology advances, Anna sees enormous benefits.

“It could be the type of thing where it's a device that you wear pretty regularly that communicates with your like iPad or your phone.”

For the dementia patients and their caregivers, Anna says it would be a game changer.

“It's really tough not being able to communicate like your wants and your needs. It's really great for caregivers to understand what their loved one is asking for,” she says.

Anna's family is harnessing both the power of technology and faith. Her father is a United Methodist pastor.

Her mother sees the benefits.

“Well, I think it's something that's good,” Candy says.

She’s extremely proud of her daughter and her impressive work.

“I know...I know,” she says.

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CareYaya is not a licensed home care agency, as defined in Gen. Stat. 131E-136(2) and does not make guarantees concerning the training, supervision or competence of the personnel referred hereunder. We refer private, high-quality caregivers to people with disabilities and older adults.