Dementia and technological innovations

Time has not yet brought a cure for Dementia and/or Alzheimer, but it has brought new technological innovations that can help patients to be safer and more comfortable.

Dementia can be frightening and overwhelming — for both caregivers and the ones living with the disease. New technologies that seem successful thus far, help ease anxiety, establish routine and improve the quality of life.

For caregivers

If you look at technological innovations that help caregivers, the focus is mainly on potential safety risks around the home. For caregivers, technology that monitors the use of electrical appliances gives them the comfort of understanding whether appliances have been turned on or off.

Location tracking devices are a great option for those who have dementia and wander. Tracking devices can be worn and alert a caregiver if their loved one has left a certain area.

In-home cameras are another great way to ensure your loved one’s safety from a distance. Keeping a camera focused on medication, or in the main room, can help you feel confident your loved one is taking medication and is active. Some cameras will allow you to speak to your loved one and will monitor movement, alerting you if no movement has been detected for a set period of time.

For patients

Someone who has dementia may confuse day and night.  An easy-to-read clock can help distinguish the time.

technological innovations have made staying in contact with loved ones easier than ever; telephones can be preprogrammed with frequently dialed numbers and often have large buttons making them easier to use. Some of the phones come with clear buttons where photos can be placed so that the person can just push the button associated with the photos to call their loved one quickly.

Video chat services like FaceTime and Skype are another great way to stay in touch with loved ones who are geographically distant.

As dementia progresses and communication becomes difficult, Talking Mats is a popular app that allows people to communicate feelings by selecting pictures and symbols.

Reminders can help keep properties and loved ones safe when the caregiver can’t. These messages are recorded on a device in the home and then played aloud at the appropriate time. For example, a caregiver may record a message that reminds a person to take a medication at the correct time. Some devices can play messages depending on the person’s activity. For example, if a person with dementia leaves their home, a reminder message could tell them to lock the front door. Other reminder messages can also let those who have dementia know to close the door, go back to bed and to provide reassurance when the caregiver is not present.

Home care

As technological innovations continue to progress, researchers are looking into home care robots to help relieve the caregiver burden. Designed to help, and not replace, human caregivers, home care robots can do general housework and help remind people to take medication or alert medical professionals if assistance is needed.

Keeping those who suffer with Alzheimer engaged

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, one of the most difficult jobs caregivers have is keeping their patients and loved ones engaged with the world around them.  Alzheimer’s can be a very lonely disease. As patients begin to forget days, faces, and even treasured family members, it can be difficult for a person suffering from dementia to interact with the world in the same ways they used to. With a growing population, it’s no wonder that technological innovations are invested in.

It’s important that activities should be stage-appropriate for the person’s age and the progression (or stage) of their disease. Someone with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease may not be able to handle a difficult memory, while someone with only mild symptoms could be insulted at the suggestion to play with dolls.

What we do know, is that for Alzheimer’s patients, it is critical to stay active. From exercise to memory games, chore routines to taking care of a dog or cat, keeping busy keeps the brain moving. It also keeps away the “four A’s of Alzheimer’s” (anxiety, aggression, agitation, and apathy).

Today’s activity market includes games for alzheimer’s

Video games, for example, may offer surprising benefits for cognition and memory improvement. Researchers go back and forth on the benefits and drawbacks of video games, but recent studies show that certain games — especially ones designed to improve memory and brain function — can have an impressive impact on adults approaching older age, not just adults with Alzheimer’s disease.

Through a study of more than 7,000 people, researchers at King’s College London discovered that the mental exercises available in these types of video games resulted in significant improvements on cognitive and life skills given before and after a six-month period with access to the games. Yet, video games can do more – they may also be able to help diagnose or prevent early Alzheimer’s.

As alzheimer’s research improves, products and activities continue to evolve

The takeaway from these studies is that activity is good for the brain–and some activities can be better than others.

Depending on the stage of Alzheimer’s, video games, memory games, and other brain games have an impressive impact on memory and cognition. In later stages, however, these games and activities may be too complicated for someone with dementia to understand. So it requires a dedicated focus and clear understanding of design, to be able to provide games that appeal to people that have  mild, moderate or severe stages of dementia.

In the end, it’s important to focus on the things that keep your loved one comfortable. When they’re having fun, and when their brains are working hard, you’ll see the positive impacts of technological innovations.

Sources
https://www.beingpatient.com/alzheimers-test-video-game/
https://www.alzheimers.net/9-22-14-technology-for-dementia/
https://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/depts/bcn/DRI

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