In dementia patients, social isolation may be tackled with assistive technology, like wearable GPS or mobile apps. Assistive technology is a product or gadget used for improving a person’s quality of life. Examples of assistive devices include an alarm clock or a television remote control. Any type or form of technology that improves the completion of daily tasks can be referred to as assistive devices.
There are two forms of assistive devices: stand-alone devices and telecare products. Stand-alone devices are purchased off the shelf and can be as simple as a clock or as complicated as an automatic pill dispenser. These devices are not linked to a monitoring center.
Telecare products are part of a telecare system, meaning, they are associated with companies which monitor the patient with the use of devices that are either wearable or placed around the home. When a sensor is triggered, a signal is sent to the monitoring center, which in turn carries out the procedure agreed with the family or caregiver.
A study showed wearing assistive devices and using satellite tracking or mobile apps could combat social isolation commonly seen among dementia patients.
Researcher Josie Tetley explained, “We will work closely with the end people living with dementia and their carers. The use of the different technology options will be studied in the daily lives of a small group of research participants to analyze the potential acceptability and usability of them. Based on this, the project will analyze the potential of these technologies to reduce social isolation and improve health outcomes.”
John Hearns, managing director of KMS Solutions Ltd, added, “The technologies we have developed can support independent living in the community by enabling the person living with dementia to move independently in safe areas, the carer to locate them using GPS tracking, and the person with dementia or their carer to contact each other in case of an emergency.”
Carol Rushton, clinical lead from Stockport Memory Clinic at Pennine NHS Foundation Trust, added, “Going for a walk can sometimes be a challenge for people with dementia because of memory issues and confusion related to their dementia, which can lead to people getting lost or disorientated even in familiar surroundings. These distressing experiences for some can result in reduced activity, increased social isolation, and increased carer stress, so any form of technology that can support people get out and about more safely and confidently would be a great help.”
Some benefits and limitations of assistive technology
- Helps the patient with time and dates
- Offers assistance on using the phone
- Can switch lights on and off
- Can switch off larger appliances
- Detects smoke or carbon monoxide
- Alerts a company or caregiver in case anything goes wrong
- Alerts when the patient falls or there is trouble at night
- Reminds patient to take medications
- Aids in location tracking via GPS
- Not all devices suit every person
- Individual needs may make embracing such technology difficult
- Recorded voices and messages can be distressing
- Alerts must be responded to – cannot be ignored
- Assistive technology does not replace human care
- Assistive technology can create a false sense of security
Technologies that can be used for someone with dementia
In dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, assistive devices can go a long way in improving care for patients. For example, devices that remind the patient to do certain things or GPS devices tracking the patients who wander. Here are some technologies that can be used for dementia patients in order to reduce stress on the family and caregivers all the while improving the patient’s daily life.
Reminder messages: These messages are recorded and set to play at specific times throughout the day
Clocks: May help ease anxiety and can provide clarification on day and night
Medication management: Marked pillboxes, automated pill dispensers
GPS location and tracking: This is best suited for patients who tend to wander
Picture phones: Designed for people who cannot remember numbers, so the number is programmed with the picture of a person
Electrical use monitoring: Caregivers who are away from the patient will be alerted when an appliance or light is not switched off
Although these devices do not cure dementia, they can make caring for a dementia patient a bit less stressful and easier at times.