The simple definition of assistive technology (AT) is “anything that makes life easier for people with disabilities.” They may use highly advanced technology like speech recognition software. They can also be as simple as a book with large print. Assistive technology for dementia patients helps patients remain independent and encourages social interaction longer. Depending on the person’s situation and the stage of dementia they are in, assistive technology can improve their quality of life.
How Does Assistive Technology Work?
AT includes computer systems and electronics, and the accessories needed to use them. It includes the software and hardware designed to educate, stimulate, and provide entertainment. It provides a resource for dementia patients to exercise their memories. Those people who have problems writing, making phone calls, or going up and down stairs can live more comfortably and safely with the right AT.
AT benefits Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and their caregivers. The people who care for them often experience high levels of frustration and stress. It can even have a negative impact on the caregiver’s health. AT helps caregivers establish a routine. In turn, sticking with a schedule reduces anxiety and improves the quality of life for everyone.
While technology doesn’t provide perfect solutions, it does make things better for some candidates. Some examples that might be right for you or a loved one include:
- Reminder Playback – These devices let you record a message and then play it back at a scheduled time. It helps remind the patient when it’s time to take their medication. More advanced devices have more flexibility about the types of messages they play. For example, they can remind them to lock the door on the way out. If they have a pet, the message can remind them to feed it or let it outside. It can even reassure the patient when the caregiver isn’t there. For patients who are more advanced and no longer able to safely manage medications, the device can help the caregiver stay on schedule, too.
- Alarms and GPS Systems – Alarms that alert you when the dementia patient tries to get out of bed or attempts to go out the door help the caregiver keep track of their patient at all times. Tracking devices go a step further by allowing the caregiver to keep track of them when they leave the home. During the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, memory problems may be intermittent. The person can still run errands or visit friends without any problem. When memory problems occur, and they become confused and lost, the GPS system lets the caregiver know there’s a problem. These systems ensure they can find the person quickly and safely if needed.
- Picture Phones– These phones are ingenious for their simple, but highly effective design. The phone displays the picture of all the people the person calls the most. They no longer have to worry about remembering phone numbers or even the person’s name. All they have to do is push the button with the picture of the person they want to call. These phones allow the person to do some of the simple things they’ve always done for themselves.
- Electrical Appliance Monitor– Cooking is one of those tasks that a caregiver must decide is no longer safe for their loved one. For caregivers who don’t live with their loved ones, an electrical monitor helps them keep track of what they are doing. The caregiver plugs the device into an electrical outlet. If an appliance hasn’t been turned on or off, the device alerts them.
- Daytime/Nighttime Phones– Some dementia patients have problems keeping their days and nights straight. Getting confused about the time causes anxiety. Special clocks not only tell the time; they show the difference between the daytime and nighttime hours.
Assistive Technology for the Future
The shortage of caregivers is one reason that a number of companies have come up with companion robots for dementia patients. The technology behind these robots is futuristic, to say the least. Their sensors actually sense people from their sound, temperature, and posture. They can tell the difference between dark and light, and various degrees of touch. They can even recognize their name, greet, and offer praise.
Companion robots have proven to reduce stress for patients and their caregivers. They stimulate interaction, improve relaxation, and increase motivation. The technology also helps improve social skills; something that plays an important role in the dementia patient’s well-being.
Problems with Assistive Technology
The number of Americans with dementia is growing. An estimated 5.7 million have Alzheimer’s, with someone new developing the disease every 65 seconds. 16.1 million provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. The diversity of assistive technology continues to grow to meet the demand.
Some technology is simple and affordable, but a lot of it is very expensive. Some types of private insurance pay the costs of AT, but patients are left to pick up the tab for most of it out of their pockets.
A lot of the technology benefits patients during the earliest stages of dementia. It may not be very helpful once they reach more advanced stages. For example, those in the later stages of dementia can’t be trusted to handle medication dispensing on their own. Some of the AT is beneficial to caregivers. For some, reminders aren’t enough to relieve the stress of caring for a dementia patient.
A Better Solution
Even the most advanced AT isn’t a substitute for human interaction or experienced care. Placing your loved one into a dementia-assisted living facility might be the best solution. It places them in a safe environment where they have the attention they need around the clock.
You want the best for your loved one, even if it means having someone else providing their care. Lake Manor has compassionate, skilled caregivers who are devoted to providing dementia- or Alzheimer’s- specific care to every one of our residents. Contact Lakeside Manor today and schedule a visit to our facility. We offer the proven techniques that help dementia patients lead a better quality of life.