How you can fight dementia with technology
Despite decades of research, dementia is still not curable. However, that does not mean that there is nothing you can do to keep the person safe. You can provide the person with a GPS tracker, but much more is possible. The following technology exists to help people with dementia and their caregivers.
Someone with dementia often has trouble keeping an eye on the time and whether it is day or night. It is one of the signs that tells you that someone is in the first stages of the disease. There are special clocks to indicate the day and night cycle, which are called Day Clocks or Dementia clocks . But also think of apps and the mobile phone: it often also indicates whether it is day or night via the clock or a certain colour.
With dementia the brain becomes clouded, which regularly results in the inability to recognize family members. That can be frightening and embarrassing. With a tablet, a patient has a large screen on which photos of friends and family can be viewed, but it is also a good way to stay in touch with family and friends if they are unable to visit. By continuing to see those images often, it makes it easier for the demented to see who is who. There are special tablets (and telephones) with extra-large buttons, so that the elderly (who suffer from dementia more often) can handle this better. You can check the following links: recallcue.com or memoclock.com
Dementia in numbers
44 million people worldwide suffer from Alzheimer’s. The expectation is that this will be three times as many in 2050, which is partly due to the aging population. Dementia is diagnosed in new patients every 3 seconds. Someone is diagnosed with dementia if two or more symptoms are observed, including memory loss, disruptions in communication, and visual problems. The worldwide costs of dementia are increasing rapidly: in 2018 this is estimated at 1 billion US dollars.
Someone who has dementia benefits a lot from help, but it doesn’t always have to come from people. A sensor at a door that indicates via spoken text that you should not forget to lock the door, can already be a good guide. You can also record a voice message that is played at a certain time, such as “It’s 12 o’clock, take medicine x”. Automatic pill boxes are also available, they open automatically at the right time. In addition, they also sound an alarm, so that the patient and the caregiver do not forget to give the right medication at the right time.
Devices that turn off automatically
We may find it annoying that the television indicates after a few hours that it will switch itself of when you do not press a button on the remote control within a minute, but for people with Alzheimer’s it is very helpful; they are probably stopped watching well before the message appears. However, there are devices that go further than that: there are special devices that ensure that the gas supply is stopped so that someone never leaves the gas on for too long. The same applies to devices that cause the water tap to stop after a certain number of minutes.
Brain training fighting dementia
It was a briljant idea of Nintendo to not necessarily market Braintraining on the handheld Nintendo DS for only young people, but for every age group. Suddenly the elderly also walked away with the portable game console, because thanks to Dr. Kawashima’s Braintraining they could keep their brains fresh with a few minutes of training a day. Various studies show that training the brain greatly helps to have a larger cognitive reserve, so that you experience the cognitive disadvantages a little less quickly in dementia. You don’t necessarily have to have a Nintendo handheld for brain training: there are also good apps to help you remember to do your “homework” every day.
Tech and dementia, the future
Now that we are moving more towards making houses smarter, the life of someone with dementia also becomes easier. Smart locks can provide insight into when doors are closed and opened. The Apple watch can already detect when someone almost falls, so hopefully it will soon be possible to register when someone really falls. And the watch is able to send an alarm to a healthcare provider. Robots will play a role in our household in an even further future and especially an auxiliary dementia robot who can ask how someone feels. For example, can help a person suffering from dementia to express themselves.
Even more advanced and for some maybe a bit too much there is “telecare”. This means remote care, whereby people are monitored in their home via cameras. You can also think of systems that have a little less influence on privacy, such as a button in the living room where a video call can be started directly with a social worker or family member, or simply sensors that register when someone has fallen and then automatically the emergency services.