Age in Spain volunteer Kay Caldwell has searched the internet to give a quick round-up of digital technology that’s available to help people living with dementia enjoy independent living and a fuller life. We don’t endorse any particular products, but there are some useful ideas for using technology to make life a little easier.
Although there is evidence that many older people remain unsure about using technology, and many are excluded from using it on the grounds of cost, there is no doubt that older people can benefit from the latest developments.
While a cure for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia may be some way off, use of technology – artificial intelligence in particular – can do much to help provide better quality of life, for people living with dementia, their families and their carers.
Here, we offer a quick round up of the types of gadgets on the market with links to useful websites.
Some are devices that help prolong independent living, others are intended to reduce anxiety – in dementia sufferers and those who care for them. The good news is that most of it is not new technology – it’s about making better use of the technology we already use and take for granted.
Some devices deal with memory problems, others with safety. And there are specially designed apps for entertainment – keeping an interest in gardening, pottery, or puzzles and games virtually alive for dementia sufferers.
Locator devices using GPS technology can be worn as pendants and allow people with dementia to move about freely and independently – while their relatives know exactly where they are.
With the help of a smart phone, you can tag things like house keys or spectacles that often get mislaid. Using ‘find my ……’ technology, you can get a bleeping sound from tags attached to your possessions.
Acoustic devices are already in use in care homes. Set to listen out for sudden movement, falls or breaking glass, these devices immediately alert care staff to a problem.
Motion devices can be installed in your home and set to remind you as you leave the kitchen to turn off the gas, or check you have your keys if you’re going out the front door.
‘Call Genie’ is a software solution invented by the designer to help him stay in contact with his 91 -year-old mother. Connected to broadband in the house and plugged into the TV, it interrupts a TV programme that someone is watching to automatically receive a Skype (video) call, allows the caller to check that all is well, and then switches back to the TV programme. No need for the older person to worry about making connections or answering calls. Other devices can have automatic answer mode activated, too.
Virtual assistants – like Alexa or Google – can organize the switching on and off of lights and heating, can tell you the time on asking, and can be programmed to give you reminders at certain times of the day. Or to let you know when you have an appointment. You can also phone your family and friends just by saying ‘Call so-and-so’ – provided they have the Alexa or Google app, too.
Many other devices can provide reminders to take medicine, for example. Some devices allow friends or family or familiar voices to record the messages and come on automatically during the day – at the right time.
There is much more information about all of these types of devices – and of course privacy issues that might go along with them - at https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/staying-independent/how-technology-can-help
SeniorDirectory.com has an amazing list of apps for people with Dementia or Alzheimer’s. Games and activities that stimulate, keep people in touch with their hobbies and passions. You can challenge yourself with games and progress to different levels, throw virtual pottery or grow a virtual garden!
Some uses of IT are simply about giving people living with dementia an opportunity to be creative, express what’s in their minds, and share their thoughts and feelings with others.
A simple iPad can open windows on the world. One art therapy group offers carers a couple of hours respite every week. The group takes dementia sufferers to an outdoor location, providing iPad to capture photographs of found objects, and uses the iPad later to find digital images of things that come up in conversation about memories, images and sometimes music. People are then encouraged to paint or draw – where hand-eye coordination is poor, digital apps can help people create satisfying images - make models or describe their memories and the output is posted on a digital gallery created by the project – can be something as simple as a Facebook page. Family, friends, and the dementia sufferers themselves can share in this creativity. And as it’s all about IT, children and young people can be involved and genuinely help!
And almost everyone accesses digital music these days. Playlists that resonate with the dementia sufferer can allow you to sing together, listen together - even dance together, restoring some of the equality in a relationship that has been affected by dementia. Creating such a playlist could be a project in itself that you could do together. musicfordementia.org.uk has ideas for using music to create a special shared time together and suggestions for having music included in a personal care plan. This website also discusses the value of music therapy for someone working through a diagnosis of dementia.
These are aids to living. The internet also has many scholarly articles explaining how technology has enabled long- term studies of brain activity to predict the onset of Alzheimer's, or how a change in someone’s use of IT – a change in their engagement and confidence with smart phones and computers – can be a first sign of impaired cognitive ability.
And no doubt, it will be technology that will one day make the big breakthrough in treating dementia.
Before you go! We absolutely depend upon the vital support of people like you to ensure that our services are freely available for everyone who needs help, including people living with dementia.
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To help everyone plan their life to the fullest in Spain, whatever their health condition or that of their family member, we help people access the services and support available. Through our trusted telephone and email Infoline service, our trained volunteers give timely, direct help to people who need extra support to maintain their independence and dignity in older age.
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