Assistive Technology for Alzheimer’s and other Dementias

We have seen and discussed apps and technological products designed to assist caregivers and the patient’s family, but what about products and software made specifically for the community of dementia patients? Is it a good idea to have and use assistive technology for Alzheimer’s and other Dementias?

They are often advertised as devices and software that help with the patient’s everyday living. For a disease that makes everyday a little more difficult any assistance is more than welcome. Assistive technology is thought to do exactly that, aid an individual affected by Alzheimer’s or any other dementia to perform a task they would otherwise be unable to accomplish. It is also thought to increase the safety of such task and not only the easiness with which it can be done.

Simple things like forgetting where you last left the keys, or not being able to remember when to take your medications are just a small example of a daily situation the person with dementia goes through. There are more hazardous examples that can be avoided or prevented by having assisted technology like leaving the gas unlit when cooking or getting a little lost around the neighborhood.

According to the UK’s Alzheimer's Society, the Assistive Technology for Alzheimer’s and other dementias can be a great benefit for the following reasons:

  • It is a great aid to prevent any potential risk at home.
  • It facilitates the autonomy and patient’s independence along with memory and recall of important data all during the time in which the patient can still manage everyday tasks.
  • By reducing the stress on the family and cares it lessens the chance of an early entry to care homes or hospitals.

Most items and devices have been thought by people with dementia or their carers, some with the help of software developers or manufacturing companies. No matter the way they were invented  they all have the same purpose, aid the person living with dementia. The list of this product line keeps getting bigger and bigger. These are items like special clocks and calendars, messaging recording devices to leave specific reminders for the person with dementia, memory boosting files on a computer or tablet, medication dispensers, location devices to help find a key or certain object that keeps getting lost.

Other technological aids can be more sophisticated for emergencies or special situations like a GPS device for when a person might be lost around town, although this is certainly cause of controversial discussions due to some people thinking it takes away the independence from the patient or if the person living with this disease is unable to give consent to wear this location device at all times. Then there is the telecare option that communicates with the person’s family, carers or emergency agencies in the case of leaving the home, getting up during the night, absence from a chair or bed or not leaving the bed in the morning, or more dangerous situations like gas leaks, falls, high temperatures in the home or even a flooding situation.

Daily living aids are often used by this community with different items that can be placed around the home. Also the use of incontinence devices might be recommended by the physician in charge to avoid any accidental situations and help improve the patient's quality of life.

There are many products out there, however the ones used by the person living with Alzheimer’s or any other dementia must have a personalized list of items at home. Not every person reacts the same way to all devices. Assistive technology for Alzheimer’s and other dementias should not be the only living solution for someone affected by this condition, it is a complementary aid to a good caregiving environment.

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