New Innovator: Anchorlily

Health start-up makes specially designed products for those living with dementia

"Life history on your lap," is a bespoke memory blanket designed to improve the wellbeing of those living with dementia. It is the launch product of health start-up Anchorlily, and the result of company founder Catherine Daly's 20 years' experience working with the condition.

Daly is an occupational therapist who has spent her career in dementia care across a range of settings. She was care practice coordinator with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland for five years and prior to starting Anchorlily was occupational therapy manager at Bloomfield Health Services in Dublin. Daly has an MSc in occupational therapy and both her undergraduate and post-graduate research was focused on dementia.

“The idea of the life history blanket is to provide those living with dementia with an opportunity to reconnect with their identity,” she says. “The blanket tells their story through photos, words and other triggers and can be used independently to bring comfort, stimulation and access to core memories. Enabling people with dementia to reminisce can benefit their mood and decrease episodes of anxiety.”

Life history books are often completed by families, especially when someone moves into residential care. However, a book may not always be with a resident or they may need help to use it. “Printing onto a blanket means the person can access their memories independently. It also provides them with a sensory element through different fabric textures and it keeps them warm,” Daly says.

Daly gave up her job in 2014 to concentrate on developing her business idea. She has recently completed the Enterprise Ireland-backed New Frontiers programme at the LINC innovation hub at the Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown. “I had no business experience when I applied but they gave me a chance and I have come out the other end with a whole new set of skills and a clear idea of where I want to take the business,” she says.

“There are blanket printing services available online but they rely on the customer doing most of the work. Designing and creating a blanket takes time and time is something most caregivers don’t have. We manage the whole process from start to finish,” she adds.

The life blanket is the first of a proposed suite of products aimed at improving the quality of life of those living with dementia. Daly has used her clinical experience to inform her designs. The company will sell in Ireland initially but Daly sees the global market as its future, not least because there is a new diagnosis of dementia somewhere in the world every four seconds. She intends to make it difficult for others to copy her ideas by protecting the IP where possible and having her products subjected to formal scientific scrutiny.

Daly has invested a huge amount of time rather than money in her start-up. She has done everything herself and the only outside cost incurred has been a small amount for prototypes. The business is already revenue generating as the blanket product has been selling online since April.

Anchorlily’s second product, a protective bed bumper, is due to go on trial shortly and Daly says it’s the one with really significant volume potential. “Those with late stage dementia may spend long periods of time in bed and often have bed bumpers to protect them. But existing bumpers are made from a wipeable white textile that prioritises safety and infection control over the psychological need for sensory stimulus and something interesting, familiar or beautiful to look at. The Rest Easy bed bumper will change that.” Daly is now looking to raise about €100,000 to bring Anchorlily to the next level.

The LINC at Blanchardstown Institute of Technology is currently recruiting for phase two of its New Frontiers programme.

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