Dementia: 'Assistive Technology' Leading the Fight Against Alzheimer'sFor any of us who have aged parents, dementia and its results may cause daily concern. However, for the sufferers themselves, even the beginning stages can make life difficult as symptoms can range from misplacing keys to starting a fire because they forget to turn off a stove burner. Add to this the expense of repairing items damaged because a water faucet is left running or driving in circles because they can’t remember where they live. Fortunately, technology is now being used to help dementia patients and will, it is hoped, make life more bearable for those who are suffering from the affliction.

This type of technology is referred to as Assistive Technology, and refers to any device or system that helps a patient perform a specified task that they may not otherwise be able to perform. This technology can be offered in the form of supportive equipment or devices that assist the patient by helping them to speak more easily, hear more clearly, to see better, or walk without the danger of falling. From there, it can be engineered to be more interactive and enable the dementia sufferer to dress themselves or prepare their own meal.

The technology does not need to be complicated. It can be designed to have touch buttons or braille dots that allow the patient to read or have read to them the information on a calendar or a clock. It can be programmed to turn on lights at specific times or to operate with just a touch. Then, too, there is other technology available that will help caregivers locate, via satellite navigation systems, dementia patients who have a tendency to wander off. While GPS tracking people is not something I would promote for the general population, I can see the benefit where elderly dementia patients could die if authorities were unable to locate them.

Additionally, I can even see myself using such memory aids as recording and playback devices that can remind a person to bring their keys with them, what they need to pick up at the grocery store, or to pick up a prescription at the local pharmacy. These devices could be set up to remind them to complete an assignment such as brushing their teeth or go to bed. Devices can also be rigged to doors to alert the dementia patient not to open the door for strangers.

For those who are in the beginning stages and not dependent on someone to measure them out medication, aids can be useful by reminding the patient to take their medicine at a specific time. There are even boxes out there that will beep when it is time to take a pill. The box will also open a compartment so that the correct medicine is taken at a specific time.

To help keep the dementia patient from forgetting their former lives, visual aid software can be employed that reminds the person of their previous experiences by running a consecutive series of old photographs designed to keep them in touch with their past. The automated photo album includes a recorder that describes each picture to the patient in order to keep their memories fresh and intact.

Some of the more useful technology devices include items such as Telecare, which can remotely monitor dementia patients and their environment. Telecare works via a remote control that controls sensors that are scattered throughout the home or apartment. These sensors in turn monitor the actions of a dementia sufferer and report any unsafe actions to the command center where they will determine if a caregiver, relative, or nurse should be contacted.

Last, you may remember that I have previously written about a robotic assistant known as Hector, which has been designed to assist seniors that have trouble taking care of themselves. The robot can monitor patients, via a built-in camera, and summon assistance when needed. In addition, the robot can also perform simple tasks to help those in need, including some simple tasks the person may not be able to complete themselves — such as tying their shoes.

While I hope that none of us will need to take advantage of any of these new technologies in the near future, it is nice to know that if or when the time arises, they will be there for us.

Comments welcome.

Source: Alzheimers Society

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by alles banane