Assistive technology for dementia enables an older person who is living with dementia to stay as independent as possible in their own home. Technology advances mean that equipment has been developed that can support physical challenges and memory difficulties for those with the condition.
Maybe you are looking after a loved one who is living with dementia, and you are worried about their safety. Or you yourself are living with the condition and are struggling to cope alone. Here we explain all you need to know about what dementia technology is available to you. We explain what assistive dementia technology is, the many benefits it can bring to day-to-day life and how to obtain and use assistive technology for dementia patients.
WHAT IS ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY?
Assistive technology or dementia technology refers to devices and systems that support a person living with dementia to complete tasks of daily living. These devices and equipment can help support a person with mobility and frailty challenges and issues with memory related to their dementia.
Using technology in dementia care has been rapidly evolving in recent years. Assistive technology ranges from smart systems for your home, to alarms to remind you to do certain tasks, through to smart phone apps that can provide communication tools for dementia.
There are a variety of ways in which assistive technology can help a person with dementia get the most out of life. Assistive technology devices for dementia can help improve safety and independence but can also help with monitoring health and well-being. Specifically assistive technology can help with:
Support to plan certain tasks of everyday life
Mobility and movement
Remaining safe both in and out of the home
Communication (speech and hearing)
Improving self-confidence and independence
DIFFERENT TYPES OF DEMENTIA ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY
Here we list the types of devices and alert systems that can support a person to live well with dementia.
Mobile smartphone technology is increasingly being used by older people to manage their life and keep connected to loved ones. They allow you to not only make calls and send text messages but enable you to use email and ‘apps. There are several ways they can be used as communication tools for dementia and help a person maintain independence:
Most mobile smartphones display a time and date, or the calendar function can be used
Alarms can be set on the phone to remind you to undertake a task at a certain time in the day
You can use it to access other assistive technology for dementia, for example in-home cameras, thermostats to set the heating at home and multimedia services such as television programme scheduling.
They can help your loved one keep track of hospital or GP appointments in the calendar function, so they are reminded in good time. Most organisations now use text reminders to notify patients of appointments on mobile.
Online shopping can be done on mobile smartphones and websites that they visit regularly can be saved in a ‘favourites’ file.
They can be used as safety devices for dementia patients ensuring they can always contact someone in an emergency, or they need your support.
Clocks and alarms
Not everyone will feel comfortable with smartphone technology. There are several radio-controlled and digital LCD clocks available. These have large digits so are easy to see. There are some clocks and devices that distinguish whether it is the morning, afternoon or evening through visual representation or the use of light. This is very helpful to those who are living with dementia as they sometimes struggle to understand times of day and may confuse day and night.
GPS tracking devices
Tracking devices are the perfect safety devices for dementia patients who may at times wander. The tracking device is worn by the person living with dementia and the alert system will raise an alarm to a family member if they have moved out of a particular area, for example they have left the house. They give family members much-needed peace of mind that their loved one is safe.
Smart devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod can support a person living with dementia who is experiencing problems with memory. These voice-activated devices can set reminders to notify your loved one when to complete certain tasks, for example taking medication. You can also ask them questions for example what the date and time is. If your loved one is comfortable with this technology, they can ask for a shopping list to be created, or for it to record a television programme using more advanced features. You would of course need to have Wi-Fi set up in the home to make use of these features.
Electrical appliance monitoring device
If you do not live with your loved one, knowing they are safe will be of paramount importance to you. A new piece of technology monitors the use of electrical appliances in the home, so you are alerted when an appliance is on and when it is off. So, if they have left the cooker on for a prolonged period you will be notified and can respond appropriately.
Cameras in the home
Installing cameras in your loved one’s home is another great way to ensure their safety, whilst providing you with reassurance. Many devices can then be linked to an app on your smart phone so you can see exactly how your loved one is wherever you are.
Electronic medications management
There is a large range of digital pill dispensers and boxes on the market. They provide an alert to remind those living with dementia or the family carer that it is time to take medication. Some dispensers can be linked to a vibrating alarm on a watch. This technology means that medications can be managed safety and effectively for those living with dementia.
Large picture phones
Many people living with dementia struggle to remember phone numbers and may need to get in touch with someone quickly or in an emergency. These phones have large number buttons and are programmed with frequently called numbers. Some phones have clear buttons where photos of their family members on a button that would then dial that person if they and when they are needed.
CHOOSING ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY FOR DEMENTIA
There are a few things you need to consider when choosing assistive technology for dementia patients. You may wish to consider consulting with an Occupational Therapist to get their advice on what equipment would best meet your loved one’s needs. They will conduct a comprehensive assessment of their needs and how they wish to live their live, as well as discuss with the family their views on what would make life easier.
It is always important to ensure your loved one is engaged in what is being planned for them, so that their choices and wishes are respected. It might be that your loved one is not comfortable using innovative technology and will need help and support to bring it into their lives. No decision should be made that restricts a person’s freedom or privacy.
Depending on where they are in their dementia journey, some technology may not be appropriate, and it can never replace one-to-one care provided by a family or professional carer if that is what your loved one needs. It is worth noting that dementia technology should never replace face-to-face contact to stay connected to loved one’s.
This could have a detrimental impact on a person’s overall well-being and may mean they feel socially isolated.
Here are some things you may wish to consider when choosing assistive technology for dementia:
whether there is a need for it, or can you get the support another way
what technology will best meet your needs
your preferences and ability to use devices, and how these might change over time
whether you have any other conditions that may affect how you use the technology (such as sight or hearing problems)
how much support you have from other people and whether you will need this to be able to use the technology
how well the technology will fit in with your usual routines
whether the technology requires a phone line or internet access
the cost of the technology
THE COST OF ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY FOR DEMENTIA
The cost of dementia technology and safety devices for dementia patients can be considerable for some. As a person’s needs change as does the technology needed to support them to maintain greater levels of independence. It might be that you must prioritise the systems and devices you purchase or consider getting them second hand or through eBay. Consulting with a trained Occupational Therapist will help you decide what is best for you and your loved one.
WHERE TO FIND ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY
There are many options on where to find assistive technology for dementia:
You can request a needs assessment through your local authority to see if you are entitled to social care funding and support. The assessor will look at how an Alzheimer’s alert system and other assistive technology devices may support your loved one.
There is a huge selection of online suppliers where you can order devices and systems and have them delivered direct to your home. Below is a selection of useful websites:
DLF is a national charity providing advice, information and training on independent living. DLF also runs the Living Made Easy website, a comparison site for independent living equipment. Go to www.livingmadeeasy.org.uk
TechSilver provides gadgets designed to make life easier, safer and happier.
You can buy everything you need yourself, but it is recommended that you consult an experienced Occupational Therapist before you make the investment, or you local GP. It is important that you research what is available as this will also help to make sure you pay the right price for what you need.
HOW THE GOOD CARE GROUP USES ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY FOR DEMENTIA CARE
We have been providing high quality, live-in care to families in England and Scotland for over 10 years. At the heart of our award-winning service is enabling people living with dementia independently in their own home with an improved quality of life. Our approach to care at home means our clients can achieve improved health and well-being.
At The Good Care Group, we have our own in-house occupational therapist who works closely with healthcare professionals and our care teams. As part of our comprehensive care planning process, our occupational therapist provides guidance and advice that enables people to live well in their own home with any assistive technology for dementia or home adaptations they may need. They will train the care team to use any systems and devices to support their client to achieve greater levels of independence. We constantly review our dementia care plans to ensure they evolve and accurately reflect a person’s needs. This will include reviewing their use of dementia technology.
Unlike any other live-in care provider, we have our own online care community. Families, healthcare professionals and carers can access up to date information about the care being provided. It enables more effective monitoring, which means issues can be responded to efficiently. For our families it provides a reassuring window into the care their loved one is receiving. Carers will use the online community so their clients can enjoy time online. This includes video calls with family, so they feel connected. Clients can use it to shop online or browse the web.
Every decision we make is driven by delivering improved health outcomes for our clients. Our digital technology allows us to predict risk and shape the care we provide. We measure dementia health outcomes. We want to know we are improving the quality of our clients’ lives every year.
Our health and well-being aim to reduce:
Antipsychotic drugs in dementia care
Falls in the home
Re-admission to hospital
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
They aim to promote:
Excellent nutrition and hydration
Enjoyment in life
DEMENTIA ASSISSTIVE TECHNOLOGY RESOURCES
Ability Net is an organisation that supports those with disabilities to embrace the digital world to achieve their goals and aspirations.
The Alzheimer’s Society
The Alzheimer’s Society provides a memory guide, which provides practical information on how to support people with mild memory problems, including the use of assistive technology for dementia.
Carers UK is a charity that provides information, advice and support to the millions of family carers across the UK. There website has useful information on assistive technology and how it can support family carers who are looking after a loved one.
Young Dementia UK is a charity supporting those living with early onset dementia. There website has useful information on organisations providing helpful dementia technology and digital apps, to improve quality of life and independence.
Talk to us about your dementia care needs
Our friendly and experienced team is here to help you and your family make sense of the options available to you. Call us today – we will help you every step of the way.