Technology and Aging: Technology to Support Older Adults Living with Dementia and Their Caregivers

_C4A3960The term dementia is often misunderstood. Dementia is not a disease but rather a term used to describe a progressive decline of cognitive abilities. It is a symptom of diseases like Alzheimer’s. Although dementia mainly affects older adults, is not a normal part of aging.

According to the World Health Organization “The number of people living with dementia worldwide is currently estimated at 47.5 million and is projected to increase to 75.6 million by 2030. The number of cases of dementia are estimated to more than triple by 2050”.

New technology has the capacity to improve the quality of life for those who are living with dementia. Listed below are examples of how technology is addressing some of the issues related to dementia and creating supportive solutions.

Wandering
Wandering is a serious safety concern for individuals living with dementia. The young grandson of a gentleman with dementia created a clever solution to his grandfather’s wandering out of bed at night. Using sensors that can be placed in a sock or attached to a foot, caregivers can be alerted via smartphone when a loved one with dementia steps out of bed.

Memory Challenges
Using a computer, tablet or smartphone, the Book of You is a multimedia app that allows users to create a “digital life storybook”. Creating and sharing the storybook with family and professional caregivers provides prompts for reminiscence. According to the UK Alzheimer Society “techniques like this are popular because they draw on early memories, which people with dementia tend to retain best. There is evidence that life story and reminiscence work, particularly when done one-on-one, can improve mood, wellbeing and some mental abilities such as memory”.

Cognitive Changes
According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America “when used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements”. SingFit PRIME is an app that “incorporates singing, movement, trivia and reminiscence for a fully engaging mind/body workout”. The app was designed specifically to be used with older adults living with dementia in group settings. The app compensates for loss of memory by providing the words to a song before they need to be sung.

Responsive Behaviours
The Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program describes Responsive Behaviours (RB) as a “term originating from, and preferred by, persons with dementia that represents how their actions, words and gestures are a response, often intentional, to something important to them. Persons may use words, gestures, or actions to express something important about their personal, social, or physical environment”. Some examples of RB’s are aggression, agitation, and cursing. In an effort to better understand the reasons for an individual’s RB, an app was designed for use in long term care homes to record and categorize the details of specific incidents of RB in dementia clients. Using this app allows care workers to detect patterns of RB and therefore reveal what is triggering the behavior. This gives care workers an opportunity to provide person-centred care plans that work towards alleviating the triggers and creating a better quality of life for the client living with dementia.

Follow this link to see an informative video on the progression and biology of Alzheimer’s disease on the brain.

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