Technology and Dementia

Dementia is a broad category of brain diseases that cause a long-term and often gradual decrease in the ability to think and remember that is great enough to affect a person’s daily functioning.

Dementia Action Week (20 – 26 May 2019) unites people, workplaces, schools and communities to take action and improve the lives of people living with dementia.   

So how can technology help people with Dementia? People with Dementia are usually unable to retain new information, especially over a long period of time, so what tech can help them remain in their own homes and lead a better quality of life? Over the last few years there has been a new wave of tech devices specifically designed for people with Dementia, a few of which are shown here.

The first device we are going to look at is the My Home Helper (https://www.myhomehelper.co.uk/home/home.aspx), a tablet computer that can be programmed to display messages and as well as make and receive video calls.

The idea behind My Home Helper is that the tablet can be set up in the property and displays a clock, but it can also be programmed to display messages, such as reminders at set times during the day. This offers the user reassurance, as they will know when people will be coming and when to take medication. It can be used to display pictures of family and loved ones.

This device can also be used to make and receive video calls. Family members can install a related app on smartphones and simply call the user with video. Whilst many users would lack the capacity to make calls from this device it can be set up to automatically answer video calls, so the user doesn’t need any technical knowledge.

The Canary Care Monitoring System (https://www.canarycare.co.uk/) is a set on sensors that can be installed in someone’s home that helps to monitor their activity. These are discrete, they are not cameras or microphones, so they still help keep a users privacy, but they can detect movement and temperature. These sensors feedback to an online portal, so family members can view the activity of the user and build up an idea of their daily routines.

This system can be set up to send messages, either by text or email, tailored to the family or carers needs. For instance if the temperature in the lounge goes below a set figure or the user hasn;t visited the kitchen in the morning a message is sent.

The sensors in this system can either be set up as passive infrared, or as door sensors, so can tell if a door has been opened, or if someone is moving in a room. This is useful as it can tell if the user is opening the fridge or a medicine cupboard or not moving around the house like they usually do.

The final device shown is the Mindme Alarm (http://www.mindme.care/), an alarm that can be used outside of the house to track and locate users. There are two versions of this device, the first features an SOS button, that allows the user to summon help if needed. This button will connect them to a call centre, who can then talk to the user through the device. This allows the user to get help to them, as the call centre and family members can see the location of the Mindme. However some people with Dementia will not remember they have the device, or how to use it, so there is a second unit called a Mindme Locate. Whilst similar this unit does not have the SOS button, so works as a tracker.

Both of these units use GPS technology and can be set up to send alerts, either by text or email, if the user leaves an area set up by the family or carers. They can also be set up to send alerts if the user enters an area, so they can allow the user freedom to go out, but still be safe. As some users would lack the capacity to remember to take these devices with them it would need a carer or family member to ensure they are either wearing it, or is is securely attached to something they regularly take when they leave the house, such as a handbag or set of keys.

All of these devices are available from Worcestershire Telecare (https://www.worcstelecare.org/). They are holding an open day at their showcase flat in Kidderminster on the 22nd of May, with presentations about this and other technology every hour between 10am and 3pm. If you would like to attend please contact them.

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