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!
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)