2021 saw Covid-19 as the biggest killer in the UK, moving Dementia to the number two slot for the first time since 2015. Unless you work in the health and social care sector, or have personally been affected by dementia, this fact is not new to you.
Through this unprecedented time, people living with dementia, caregivers and care homes have had to find new ways to manage and cope more often that not, alone. The pandemic has seen an increase in HSC staff shortages by up to 60%.
Personal touch and attention are important elements for aiding those with dementia and ironically, technology has proven it can assist.
Whether at home alone, assisting families or being a voluntary carer, the one common factor was that people want to keep in touch, identify risks, prevent incidents, gain awareness and for love ones to be kept engaged.
By using assistive technologies such as personal alarm systems, sensor technologies, smart devices like Alexa and smartphones, government figures showed up to 1.7 million people in England are now using such technologies to make life safer, easier, and more enjoyable for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia and the families who care for them.
As a result, the UK government has announced £150 million to drive greater adoption of technology and achieve widespread digitisation across adult social care in England, as part of a 10-year plan to reform the sector.
Backed up by NHSX funding projects with one-to-one face-to-face advice and support from digital experts openly available.
With all this at hand now is a great time to look into this space and it couldn’t be easier simply starting by using a smartphone which 4 out of 5 households have access to.
Firstly, helping with memory and concentration, many are aware memory loss is one of the most common symptoms of dementia so just setting reminders on devices can be helpful to support someone with memory issues. This can help the person with dementia, still maintain their independence.
Carers are also able to assist individuals with the update of records and medication which can be shared with relevant parties.
Secondly safety devices like motion sensors which have helped alert families and authorities if someone has a fall or an accident at home.
GPS tracking on mobile phones or watches have helped find those prone to wandering, even if someone has been inactive for a certain period of time also with the benefit of safety smart devices or plugs which can help switch of hobs and regulate water temperatures just in case of someone scolding themselves.
Finally staying connected with family members through virtual and voice calls has allowed those who are alone or miss their family to stay in contact and combat elements of loneliness and give reassurance of having someone at the other end of the phone. Helping older adults stay connected with family and friends widens their circle for social stimulation and interaction. GP’s and hospitals have also adopted technology as a connection using services like telemedicine for consultation and medical clarification.
Devices like tablets can use apps, load games of choice (crosswords, word search spot the ball to name but a few) and load their favourite songs, movies, and photos with endless possibilities this highlights the positive effect of technology.
Beyond this scientists are using technology to develop further research, A video game called Thymia has been created to detect conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia, aimed at diagnosing dementia before it would otherwise be detected.
With a future of robot assistance, artificial intelligence and augmented & virtual reality, you can understand the nervousness around technology, going forward, especially around that human connection. I watched a film ‘Robot and Frank’ about a semi-retired burglar with a failing memory who trains his robot butler to help him with new heists. A light-hearted view of what can happen when technology meets dementia.
But there are now Apps like MOJO Dementia and Care software like Care Vision that have been designed to support both caregivers, families and people with dementia, we’ve merely scratched the surface today.
There is now a range of different assistive technologies tailored to the needs of caregivers, family, and persons with dementia.
In a time where isolation has been enforced, adaptation of technology can support and give assurance for many of those who may not have thought how useful technology has been and will be in the future in the fight against dementia.