‘Tele-empathy’ device allows caregivers to really feel Parkinson’s symptoms

A Canadian company has created a device that can offer a glimpse into what it’s like to have Parkinson’s disease so others can better understand the daily frustrations of the debilitating disorder.

Klick Labs’ Sympulse is a first-of-its-kind device that can record the tremors of actual Parkinson’s patients. It can then wirelessly transmit the data to a second device worn by a caregiver, to allow them to truly feel what the patient is feeling.

The device, which resembles a blood pressure cuff, is strapped around the forearm, with a battery and motor pack providing the tremors.

Klick Labs VP Yan Fossat says the point of the “tele-empathy” device is to help those caring for people with the nerve disorder to get a real feel for the condition.

“This is intended to create empathy, to make you feel that having tremors is actually very debilitating; it’s not just a mild inconvenience,” he told CTV’s Your Morning.

“Feeling the disease with your own arm, with your own hand, is the best way to truly understand what it’s like,” he added.

By wearing the device and trying to perform everyday tasks, users can learn how tough it is to such simple things such as buttoning a shirt, slicing a tomato, or signing your name.

The device could be helpful not only for caregivers, but for physicians who often find their sense of empathy erodes after years of working with patients, Fossat says.

“We know that patients do better when doctors have increased empathy; there’s a lot of research that shows that,” he said.

But, he says, even those who struggle to empathize with patients can be shown how to develop the skill.

“Empathy is really hard to learn. Some people are good at it and some people find it hard. You can’t just learn empathy by watching a PowerPoint presentation,” Fossat said.

“This is the first time that technology is helping us learn the skill much faster.”


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