Lifelong Learner Builds Device to Help Dementia Patients
Ralph's "My Hero" device can sense movement and delivers a custom message to patients wearing it.

Lifelong Learner Builds Device to Help Dementia Patients

Ralph Trimnell utilized CNM’s Computer Information Systems classes and CNM Ingenuity’s Ignite Community Accelerator to develop a motion sensor device to assist dementia patients.
May 02, 2019

When 85-year-old Ralph Trimnell learned that his late wife had been diagnosed with dementia, he did everything in his power to care for her. But there were instances when he couldn’t always be there.

Toward the end of her time, the late Mrs. Trimnell was put on bedrest and was not permitted to get up without assistance due to risk of falling. But, as her dementia progressed, she would forget that she needed help and would attempt to get up on her own.

Ralph thought since he couldn’t be around at every second of every day, that maybe there was technology available to help Mrs. Trimnell remember to stay in bed until someone was available to help her. He couldn’t find any such tech so he took action.

“That prompted the idea for my device,” Ralph says. “What this does when pinned on the patient is sense when they are getting up and it talks to them.”

He held up what looks like a large spelling bee prize pin with the words “My Hero” on the front. Ralph explained how he learned to use simple computer technology through the CNM Computer Information Systems (CIS) classes to build a motion sensor device that plays a recorded message to the patient.

“So when they get up without assistance, the device senses their movement and plays the message,” he says.


Ralph’s prototype played a message to his wife that said, in his voice, “Hey honey, you know you’re not supposed to get up without help, sit tight, I’ll be there soon.”

“I took some programming and math classes that really helped me understand how these processes work,” Ralph says. “I really appreciated the help I got from my teachers and from all the students too.”

In addition to taking classes at CNM, Ralph completed CNM Ingenuity’s IGNITE Community Accelerator, a 10-week early-stage business accelerator.

“I really want to get this device out there. That’s my goal,” he says. “I need cash of course, but I would also like the help of students at CNM that know more about this kind of technology.”

Ralph also worked as a student employee in CNM’s Office of Planning and Institutional Effectiveness. Even though he isn’t a degree-seeking student, he was able to lift his spirits, help his wife and dream big at CNM.

“All my classwork at CNM has been in service of this project,” he says. “There’s a tendency for guys like me, who have lost their wives, to never leave the house. But I really enjoyed my classes at CNM and working here too.”

Learn more about CNM’s Computer Information Systems Program.