Dementia is one of the biggest healthcare challenges that our societies face today.
In the UK alone, it’s estimated that over 850,000 people now have dementia. And as our population continues to live longer and the proportion of elderly people rises, this number will continue to grow. As it does, health and social care providers will find themselves under pressure to deliver complex, multi-stranded care.
In the face of this growing problem, there is a vital imperative to pursue a range of initiatives that will improve the lives of sufferers. In addition, alleviate the burden on these health and care providers.
One such initiative it’s hoped will make a big difference in both areas is the use of assistive technology. In particular, the aspiration for many dementia sufferers is that assistive technology could help them live for longer in their own homes. A great many sufferers would prefer to live in the comfort and familiarity of home. Doing so can also be significantly less costly for them, for their loved ones and for health and social care providers.
What is assistive technology?
Assistive technology is the term for any device or system that helps a dementia sufferer to perform a task that they would otherwise be unable to do. Assistive technology may also improve how easy or safe activities are for the sufferer.
Such technologies may be integrated into care home environments, or into the sufferer’s own home. They can range from simple, standalone devices to complex, integrated systems.
Assistive technology and communication
Social isolation is a widespread societal problem amongst the elderly, and acutely harmful to the lives of dementia sufferers. While real-world, human contact is the ideal, digital communication can provide a vital form of interactivity and connectedness. Both voice and video-enabled devices can connect sufferers with healthcare professionals. And, perhaps most importantly, with their friends and family.
Assistive technology in this area has the potential to greatly relieve the pressure on both carers and the healthcare system. Platforms are designed to simplify communication for the sufferer.
Providing vital safety mechanisms
Assistive technology can radically improve safety in the sufferer’s environment. For example, motion sensor technology can track activity around the home, and alert carers when the user has been immobile for a significant period. It can also send alerts when a sufferer has had a fall, and even pre-empt falls by notifying carers when a sufferer is undertaking a high-risk motion that may cause injury.
In a person’s home, assistive technology can safeguard against the risks of flooding, fire and intruders. It can ensure the safe use of domestic appliances and call for help in an emergency.
Improving everyday life for sufferers
Some assistive technologies and devices may help with quite simple day-to-day tasks and operations that sufferer might struggle to keep up with. Devices include temperature sensors for climate control, light activation and control, automated ovens, dishwashers and washing machines. Some other technologies may include garden sensors for automated maintenance electronic showers, taps and toilets, and even floor cleaning robots.
The medical aspects of everyday life can also be automated and made easier with technologies such as remote monitors. These track blood sugar, blood pressure and heart rate. This is connected technology that can be automatically exchanged with health professionals. With access to real-time data, they can then make informed decisions about when and how to make an intervention to assist the sufferer.
Other ways that assistive technology can help in everyday life include dispensers. These can remind sufferers to take medication. Orientation clocks can help with confusion about the time of day, day of the week, month, or year. Meanwhile, locator devices help track lost items of property, such as phones, keys, and wallets.
In more advanced stages of dementia, a frequent challenge for carers is being able to look after a sufferer who is prone to wandering and disorientation. Assistive technology that can help here includes door entry and exit sensors. These alert either care home staff or friends and family members to movement.
GPS tracking devices are another especially useful technology that can track a sufferer if they have become lost or disoriented within a few metres. A lost patient may be a risk to themselves or even others. Being able to track them, when necessary, can bring the period of disorientation to an end. In addition, prevent the sufferer from coming to harm.
Assisted living technology, and how OV can help to deliver it
As we’ve shown, assistive technology for dementia sufferers often involves complex, mobile network-enabled deployments. Health and social care providers face several obstacles in rolling out these connected systems. The greatest of these is the reliability issue. Providers can only offer a system of remote monitoring for dementia sufferers at home or in care settings if they have complete confidence that both data and voice devices will operate correctly every time they’re needed.
OV provides a multi-network platform that accesses all the UK’s mobile networks. This means that reliable, consistent connectivity is guaranteed. In turn, this provides the carers of those with dementia with the reassurance of knowing that both data and voice devices will always do the job they’re designed to do. Keeping the sufferer connected and safe, and able to maximise their quality of life.
If you’re a health or social care provider who’s looking to roll out assistive technologies for dementia sufferers, OV can help. Just and we’ll get together for an initial chat.