Monthly Archives: October 2012

Prolong independence!

Taking advantage of assistive technologies can help people living with dementia maintain their independence longer!

Dementia is an illness that involves the loss of brain function relating to memory, language, thinking, judgement, and can lead to severe cognitive impairment. This illness is out of line with the normal ageing process, but has become common throughout North America. The problem with dementia is that the social assumptions surrounding  it are quite negative.

Often, people don’t understand how dementia works, and with this misunderstanding, make decisions that may not fall in line with the ideas of the person with dementia. When a caregiver misunderstands dementia and applies these negative assumptions to their beliefs, it can result in a loss of independence and quality of life for the loved one they are caring for. The combination of social stigma and physiological changes creates an environment that leads the senior to have fewer opportunities to participate in their own lives and the community.

Using assistive technologies, such as computers, tablets, smart phones, GPS, and other seemingly common technology tools, can greatly improve the lifestyle of a person with dementia, helping them age in place more easily and comfortably.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society of the United Kingdom (2012), assistive technology can:

  • Promote independence and autonomy, both for the person with dementia and those around them
  • Help manage potential risks in and around the home
  • Reduce early entry into care homes and hospitals
  • Facilitate memory and recall
  • Reduce the stress on carers, improving their quality of life, and that of the person with dementia.

Fortunately, there are many assistive technologies available that can aid in the day-to-day living for everyone, including those with dementia. Often it’s assumed that technology is a controlled machine, like a car, or a fun gadget, like a laptop computer, but technology tools currently available can range from a wander-prevention pressure mats to multi-care detection (i.e. heart monitoring, blood pressure, etc.) devices. There are fascinating arrays of technologies that can improve the quality of living for adults living with dementia and their caregivers.

There are a number of research projects and current technologies in use throughout the United Kingdom, but there is far less being discussed in Ontario. Though there is less discussion, there is interest, and one can find more information through the University of Toronto’s Intelligent Assistive Technology and Systems Lab. They aim to develop technologies to help users participate fully in their daily lives!

For more specific information on products, one can find out from AT Dementia, a UK-based organization. If you are interested in assistive technologies, contacting your local Alzheimer’s Society advocacy group, or other senior-related social assistance groups, will provide you leads of where you need to look to find the right tools for you or your family member!

Links:

UofT’s Intelligent Assistive Technology and Systems Lab – http://www.ot.utoronto.ca/iatsl/

AT Dementia – http://www.atdementia.org.uk/

Alzheimer’s Society of Canada – http://www.alzheimer.ca/en/on/

– Aarthy Rajah (ETAG Lead Volunteer)

No Keyboard. Dictate!

Using a keyboard to type on a computer or tablet might soon be a thing of the past. With the help of the Dragon Naturally Speaking software and the Dragon Dictation app, you are able to communicate directly to your technology without needing a keyboard at all!

Dragon Naturally Speaking is a voice-dictation tool that allows users to speak into a microphone and have their words recorded in writing on their technology device. For those with dexterity limitations and other physical barriers, this software enables users to complete common daily tasks like: managing emails, updating Facebook accounts, launching computer applications, typing in MS Word and even commanding your computer though voice dictation.

Those who use Dragon Naturally Speaking, sometime criticize the program for the first few days… It takes a little getting used to. For instance, when speaking to the program, you must speak a certain way; slowly, clearly, and with no emotion, because the program doesn’t understand emotions anyway.  With a little perseverance, users get accustomed to how the program functions and how to operate it. It’s easy, if you stick with it!

– Ashia Arshad (ETAG Lead Volunteer)

Trip Down Memory Lane

Do you remember your old home over seas, or what it was like to walk down the street in the neighbourhood you grew up in? What about your favourite restaurant you always visited as a child; do you know if it’s still there? Take a trip  down  memory lane! With the help of Google Maps, site seeing around the world has never been easier. Today we have the ability to virtually tour familiar streets and  explore distant lands we’ve never visited. It’s incredible how much detail is captured by both satellites and a camera mounted on top of a car!

With ease, you can take a virtual trip just about anywhere in the world instantly, without leaving the comfort of your home. Since Ann, a participant at ETAG’s Oakville location, was introduced to Google Maps she has not stopped visiting her homeland of Italy. She reminisces about the good times she had as a young girl with family and friends. She eagerly shows volunteers familiar places and landmarks she recognizes.  Ann certainly finds a lot of value in this tool.

Google Maps, originally called Google Local, was introduced to the world  in 2005. It can be  accessed through desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones, with GPS capabilities. Google Maps has brought to life a spark  in some of ETAG’s participants, that  can only be achieved through technology. Ann looks forward to flying over to Italy in the future, but for now her longing and homesickness is quenched with Google Maps.

– Simone Carpio (ETAG Lead Volunteer)