Can Technology Really Help with Alzheimer’s and Dementia?
Dementia in itself is not a specific condition, but an umbrella term used to describe many forms of deterioration occurring in the brain. Although associated with older age, it isn’t a ‘natural’ part of aging. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for close to two-thirds of all cases.
There are currently as many as 800,000 people in the UK living with dementia, and with no cure yet available, the emphasis is on prevention and improving quality of life for existing sufferers.
The Role of Technology
According to the Alzheimer’s Society online, there are a number of ways in which technology can improve the lives of those suffering with the condition. Devices include:
- Memory aids. Dementia has serious impact on cognitive and memory recall skills. Certain devices can assist with counteracting the effect of this; such as reminder messages, medication aids that emit a noise when it’s time to take a pill, and even reminiscence aids, with photos and music to stimulate memory.
- Tracking devices. Those suffering with dementia may be more prone to going missing or getting lost whilst on a walk. A tracking device enables them to be found quickly by their carers and taken back to safety.
- Monitoring emergencies. Alzheimer’s sufferers are more likely to forget to do things; such as turning the hob off after cooking or turning the tap off after running a bath. This can obviously have a catastrophic effect and place them in danger. Monitoring devices can detect fire, extreme temperatures or flood; and can also be used to alert a carer if the individual has a fall.
- In instances where the patient is suspected to not be coping well at home, surveillance can be used to monitor their movements around the house, and to assess whether or not independent living is the best course of action for them.
In addition to this, there are many assistive technologies to help with mobility, incontinence and problems with hearing or seeing.
Development and Advances
Further developments are continually being made in technology for dementia sufferers; such as ‘home-robots’ which are able to take on certain household tasks, and even therapeutic robots, designed to mentally stimulate and help provide emotional support.
However, this raises certain questions. Although these types of technology can provide assistance and support, should they be used to replace human interaction? It seems likely that this may prove to be more damaging in the long-term; especially if the person suffering with dementia becomes isolated from other people.
Additionally, as the Alzheimer’s Society identifies; ‘people react differently to different products’. Some may find it useful to have a spoken reminder, telling them where they’ve placed their keys. Others might find the information even more confusing.
Therefore, choosing the right technological equipment to suit the individual patient should be a top priority, and each situation should be assessed before any products are purchased. It’s possible that the person may be eligible for a professional assessment. If you think this may be the case, it’s important to contact your GP or occupational therapist.