10 Tips for Assistive Technology (AT) supports for people with Dementia

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Dementia can cause practical problems. For example, people sometimes get lost because they don’t recognize their street or their house any more. They might lose important objects like keys. It is hard if family and friends live far away.

Families sometimes feel that they can’t tell what is going on and because it is too far to travel, it might be safer for the person to move to a care home. This is a shame because sometimes the imagined problems are worse than the reality.

Assistive Technology in Dementia Care
AT is often simple and affordable, such as this bedside device

Here are ten tips for Assistive Technology (AT) supports for people with dementia.

  1. If you are concerned about someone who lives alone, they may benefit from a community alarm.  This is where the resident has a pendant or other device that they can press to call for a local care worker to come and help them in an emergency.
  2. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be in all our homes, but for a person with dementia who might forget to check the alarm, or replace the batteries, it is good to have one connected to the mains electricity supply.
  3. Door sensors and passive infrared beam emitters can be fitted to alert carers that the person has gone outside.  The message might come through on the carer’s phone, or other device, or if you are living in the same house, an audible alarm or vibrating pager might be more appropriate.
  4. Electronic body worn location devices can be sophisticated and elegant, like a discreet watch, so they are easy to wear, and you could use the smartphone in your pocket to find out where a lost person has gone.
  5. Many sensors have timed or location alerts.  So, you receive a warning signal if the person you care for has gone outside the city boundary, or if they are leaving the house at an unexpected time, such as three in the morning.
  6. A voice recording may help, for example if someone was about to leave in the night, a familiar voice will say it is night time, and advised them to stay in.  Of course for some people that in itself is unfamiliar and might be disturbing.
  7. There are many devices to stop sinks and baths overflowing, medication reminders, and fall detectors.
  8. AT is often simple and affordable, and some can be provided through social work services.  A good place to ask is the local occupational therapist. 
  9. Inventors and manufacturers are hard at work producing useful equipment that can help with this.  Keep looking out for new ideas. The AT dementia site is a great source of information
  10. The Alzheimer’s Society has factsheets explain what AT is and how some technologies that you have at home already might be adapted to help the person with dementia

There is a really useful website www.atdementia.org.uk which gives more information about what is available and you can download a guide free from dementiashop or buy a copy from Amazon for £15.

Some of the solutions to living with dementia are as simple as having a prominent clock, and nothing beats friends and family taking an interest, but it makes sense to use all the technical solutions around, to leave more time for having fun together.