Assistive Technologies for Seniors with Dementia
By Lucy Wyndham
Photo by Aaron Ang on Unsplash
With around 5.5 million Americans currently living with Alzheimer’s dementia and numbers expected to rise over the next decade, the technological sector is stepping up its game, with a series of innovations aimed at making the disease more bearable both for those affected and their family and friends. In this post, we highlight just a few technologies that are working to increase safety, practicality, and comfort.
Motion Sensor Lights
One of the earliest indicators of dementia, is forgetting everyday responsibilities such as closing the lights or turning off electrical appliances. Dementia affects the working memory, as well as long-term memory though in the initial stages, seniors are often able to live alone with assistance from family members, and the help of technology.
Although motion sensor lights originally envisioned to help conserve energy, they are an excellent way to help seniors worry less about closing the lights when they leave a room, or about switching them on when they need to get out of bed at night – thus reducing the risk of falls.
Depending on the wattage, those who leave their lights open spend a few more cents every hour; when one considers that most Americans spend 15% of their electricity bill on lighting, the importance of energy conservation becomes patent, if only from an economic standpoint.
Common medication errors that can arise with dementia include scheduling errors (failing to take medication on time) and episodic errors (patients forget whether or not they have taken their medication, which can result in missed or doubled doses).
Assistive technologies for medication include automatic pill dispensers (which come with an alarm so the patient always takes the right dose at the right time) and smart pill dispensers that notify caregivers when medication has been taken.
Medical Alert Systems
These devices, often worn as a necklace or on the wrist, contain technologies such as fall detection, which enables seniors to obtain assistance when and where they need it. This technology is particularly important for those with Alzheimer’s/dementia, since the latter have a higher fall risk owing to a number of factors – including problems with balance, difficulty walking, or changes in vision and hearing.
This category includes special clocks (which contain larger numbers and have a simple, clear design). These gadgets often have magnifying aids and indicators of whether it is day or night time. They can also have different designs to choose from (digital vs analogue, for instance), to personalize the experience for users.
Also visual in focus are picture phones, which enable users to make calls by pressing on images of friends and family, instead of having to search by name and number.
In this post, we have mentioned just a few technologies developed to help those with dementia lead an independent life for as long as possible. While most focus on simplifying daily tasks, some are more concerned with ensuring that patients are attended to speedily, which is important considering the higher fall rates and mobility challenges faced by persons with dementia.