Assistive Technologies for Dementia Patients
by Renicia Broodryk
September 27, 2019
Dementia is a general term describing a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory and an individual’s thinking and rationalizing skills. This rapid decline is enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform even menial daily tasks. 
There are simple tools and utilities in life that we often take for granted because they have become part of our general daily routines. They do, however, add significant value to the lives of those people affected by Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
The following list of technological innovations, also known as “assistive technologies”, can play a big part in making caregiving much easier and help to keep patients safe and comfortable. Assistive technologies promote autonomy and independence by managing potential safety risks while easing anxiety for caregivers and loved ones.
Patients diagnosed with dementia are prone to losing track of time. Specially designed digital clocks have an easy-to-read screen. The large display uses full words instead of abbreviations to assist in clearing up the day-night confusion. The clock displays the day of the week, month, date and time. Some also clearly state whether it is morning, afternoon or night. Since routine is an essential part of life for those affected by dementia, a clock with such clear and easy-to-read information may be a very good investment and comfort in its own right.
2. GPS location and tracking
A tendency to wander off is more often than not associated with the dementia diagnosis. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “six in 10 people with dementia wander. Wandering among people with dementia is dangerous.” Many family members opt to use GPS tracking devices, which allow the patient to be found and returned home safely and quickly. Some location tracking devices can be worn (such as a shoe insert) and allow the caregiver or family members to access tracking information via their smartphones, tablets or web browsers. Parameters can be set to alert the caregiver as soon as the patient has left the designated area. These devices can also be set to alert emergency services for immediate assistance in the event of a fall or injury.
3. Home care robots
The continued progression of technology has researchers looking at robots to assist in providing care for patients diagnosed with dementia. Home care robots have been conceived purely to aid the afflicted, not replace the human caregiver. They are designed to assist with everything from general housework, reminders to take medication or even alerting professionals when assistance is needed.
Robot Activity Support System (RAS), created by scientists from Washington State University (WSU) say that their robot “uses sensors embedded around the home to determine where the resident is, what they’re doing and when they need help with daily tasks.” By providing video instructions to complete tasks or guide to important objects, patients can regain some independence.
4. Telecare systems
Telecare is defined as the continuous automatic and remote monitoring of real-time emergencies and lifestyle changes over time to manage the risks associated with independent living. These systems refer to a variety of monitoring devices designed to alert of any potential dangers. The purpose of the telecare systems is to promote and maintain independence and quality of life while giving the caregiver and family members reassurance as to the patient’s safety. They also assist in preventing a crisis from developing by raising an alarm to the assigned contacts or directly to emergency services. This is useful in cases where the caregiver does not live with the patient or is away for extended periods. Some examples of these devices are:
· Door entry system
The door entry systems allow the dementia patient to remotely check who is at the door before opening. Some systems allow the user to have a two-way conversation via an intercom system, others even allow the user to open the door with a touch of a button. Some with cameras even allow the user to take a photograph of a potential intruder. This is very useful when mobility is impaired.
· Door sensor
The door sensors provide reassurance for the caregiver or family member as it alerts them when the patient leaves the house and comes back. It also sends an alert to the nominate numbers if the patient has not returned home within the preset time frame. Some of these systems even have a pre-recorded message with a reminder to take keys and lock up.
· Personal Alarm with fall detectors
It is known that patients with dementia are more prone to falls due to some symptoms or medications, resulting in possible severe injuries. The patient can press a button for assistance when needed. The fall detector will set off an alarm if the wearer should happen to fall. Emergency services will also be alerted if the patient forgets to press the button or is unable to.
· Smoke alarms
This is a vital safety measure for any household, especially one that has a dementia patient in it. A flashing light or strobe can be added in case the alarm is not heard (as with the hearing impaired). For those who are heavy sleepers and would not be woken by an alarm, a pillow vibrator is available. When the device detects smoke, it shakes the pillow. Smoke alarms also have a built-in alert to call family members, caregivers, and emergency services.
5. Digital games, puzzles, and apps
Along with entertainment, leisure and brain stimulation, many of these apps allow the user to connect with others remotely. Staying engaged with other players is a vital part of the patient’s well being. Some benefits of keeping the brain active include:
- Reducing brain cell damage caused by Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
- Supporting the growth of new brain cell development.
- Nerve cells are prompted to communicate with each other.
- It helps the brain to store up a reserve supply of brain cells and the links between them.
The dementia diagnosis can be very difficult, not only to the patient but also the loved ones. Many factors are resulting in anxiety, or points of concern, that the diagnosis carries with it. Using assistive technologies can help ease these anxieties and give everyone involved a bit of surety.
There may not be an immediate need for some of these innovations right now, but as the dementia condition progresses they may be helpful in the future. Many people with dementia choose to introduce the use of technology as early as possible so that they have enough time to adjust. Either way, it is important to seek professional advice to ensure that only relevant and necessary aids are purchased.
 Calderdale Council Adult Health & Social Care Services, 2010
Leave a Comment...
October 11, 2019
Very well articulated Renicia. Looking forward to reading more of your articles. Well done.??
October 11, 2019
Excellent reading material.. Thank you ?
October 11, 2019
Well said and written.
October 11, 2019
Very informative read. Thank You