Assistive technology can promote independence and autonomy, both for the person with dementia and those around them. It can reduce early entry into care homes and hospitals, as well as reduce the stress on carers, improving their quality of life.
There are many types of assistive technologies from simple inexpensive things such as specific clocks and lamps, to high-tech solutions like satellite navigation systems.
Telecare, such as the service from Poole lifeline and various private providers can provide peace of mind for people living along, or as a couple. Often the person wears a pendant around their neck or on a bracelet that they can press if they are in distress. They are then connected to a call centre who can either contact an emergency contact or call someone out. Costs can be about £50 per quarter.
A ‘wander memo’ is a device that can be positioned by the front door and programmed to play a pre-recorded message whenever it is activated e.g. “Don’t forget your keys dad”. It may be more useful than a sign, which may be ignored. An example of a wander memo here, although we have never used this model and can’t recommend it. You can reset the message every 6 weeks so it doesn’t get too familiar. This needs to be carefully monitored and assessed as it can cause extra distress and anxiety.
Medication aids can be used if someone is finding it difficult to manage their medication. Dossette boxes ae simple boxes for pills with compartments for particular days of the week and times of the day. Automatic pill dispensers are also available, which beep and dispense the relevant tablet for that time.
Sensors can be used to detect a range of situations that could indicated a potential hazard, including flooding, extreme temperatures (e.g. if a pan has boiled dry or if temperature in a room is dangerously low), gas, falls, absence from a bed or chair and whether people are getting up at night.
This is a small sample of some of the technology out there. The Alzheimer’s Society point out that this technology can only be effective when combined with good care – not as a replacement.
Although many devices can be bought independently, it is advisable to contact the person’s occupational therapist, GP or community mental health team. Even if you’re not eligible for free equipment, they will assess and maybe able to help find the right equipment.