Jane Byrne at FirstCare.ie knows the challenges of caring for a friend or relative with dementia. But she’s also hopeful for the impact the today’s technology can have for carers and patients alike
Current smartphone technologies are so advanced that you can accomplish almost anything with them. For people with dementia, a smartphone or tablet can be a great ally in staying healthy and safe. Some of the ways a smart device can be used to help those with dementia include:
There are so many other ways smartphones and other smart devices can be of help to those with dementia, and tech experts are always developing new and innovative applications of the technology.
In fact, one of the most exciting pieces of tech for helping to treat those with dementia for both healthcare professionals and family members of sufferers could actually provide a kind of pet for those with dementia. The Paro therapeutic robot is a small seal like robot that uses AI to provide many of the benefits of animal therapy for those who use it. Paro can respond to petting, can learn to behave in ways that the owner likes and even respond to its name. So, Paro can provide a sense of companionship and love for those with dementia, and this brings a host of benefits to the patient, such as;
There have been a number of research studies that have supported the efficacy of Paro, and it has been used around the word for around 15 years.
In fact, there is a lot of mileage in using smart devices for treating those with dementia. As studies in the libraries of the National Institute of Health note, the use of touchscreen technology is particularly useful, as it is quite intuitive and relatively accessible to those who suffer from dementia. However, healthcare providers could be bolder in the way in which they use the technology, for example by utilising the technology to provide entertainment or meaningful activities for patients, rather than merely using it as a means to take assessments related to their care plan.
This particular innovation can be a big help for those with dementia who tend to wander. With pressure mats and movement sensors, a caregiver will have an easier time knowing when his/her ward is on the move. And by strategically locating movement sensors in various parts of the house, knowing exactly where a patient is at a particular moment will not be a problem.
A movement sensor or pressure mat will also minimize the risk of a patient wandering outside unsupervised by alerting the caregiver.
There are various GPS tracking devices that can be worn on a loved one with dementia to ensure you always know where they are.
For instance, you can wear on them a GPS enabled smartwatch or a pendant such as the MindMe device which features an emergency alert button. With such tracking technology, quickly finding a loved one with dementia who has wandered off will not be a problem.
Fancy clocks are pointless for a person with dementia. For such an individual, a clock that is readable regardless of the time of day is best. Fortunately, digital clocks with clear readouts that are visible at all times of the day are available and affordable.
An ideal clock for a person with dementia can also provide more information such as the day and date, and whether it’s night or day. This easily accessible information will go a long way in reducing the anxiety of someone with dementia.
There are home monitoring devices that can allow family or caregivers not only monitor a patient from afar but also control certain aspects of the house. For instance, there are innovative home monitoring devices that allow a user to remotely control the lights, thermostat, and even security. With such technology, you can make sure your loved one is okay regardless of how close or far away you are.
For better or worse (and on balance we think it is for the better), technology has become a bigger and more integral part of every sphere, whether that is entertainment, day to day life or dementia care. With this rise of technology comes opportunities (to more effectively care for our patients, to make out systems more efficient), and also threats. It is the duty of the carer, and those in positions of power in the healthcare industry, to keep abreast of technological developments, as thanks to these innovations, caregivers and family members can enjoy better peace of mind while caring for loved ones with dementia, and the overall care package can become more effective, which is the most important thing.
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