January, 2008

First Patent Ever Submitted by FMHI Faculty

Dr. William Kearns

Dr. James Fozard

Among the many challenges family members and caregivers of loved ones with dementia face is the likely possibility that their loved one may wander away from their residence. In fact, 60% of the approximately 6 million Americans with dementia will wander at some point during their disorder. Many wanderers elope from homes and formal care settings each year only to succumb to accidental death by falling or exposure to the elements. The experience for caregivers and their families is heart wrenching and can be devastating to the family fabric.

Fortunately, this may soon be a concern of the past. Two psychologists, Drs. William Kearns and James Fozard of the Department of Aging and Mental Health at the Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute have submitted a patent for a technology to safely guide and return a person with dementia who has wandered using cached voiced cues and cellular telephone technology. Theirs is the first patent of any FMHI faculty and – unlike other approaches used to address this problem – uniquely relies on specific cognitive characteristics of the dementing process itself for its effectiveness.

“We are extremely excited about this new technology,” said Dr. Kearns, “and the great potential to not only save lives, but to provide a peace of mind to many family members and caretakers."

Parties interested in licensing the technology for production should consult the USF Department of Patents and Licensing website at http://www.research.usf.edu or contact the department at (813) 974 0994 or by e-mail at patents@research.usf.edu and reference the "Wireless Wayfinding Device for Persons with Dementia" - USF 06B132.

The Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute (FMHI) has emerged as a national leader in behavioral health research. The Institute houses several state and national research and training centers focused on improving practices in treating mental, addictive, and developmental disorders.