Alzheimer’s disease is frightening and overwhelming for both the patients and their caregivers. While people with Alzheimer’s may experience grave difficulties due to illness, caregivers often feel pressured and exhausted with increased demands and responsibilities.
Technological advancement has provided promising solutions to ease the burden and anxiety of caregiving and to make people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia feel safer and more comfortable.
The technology that is specifically designed to help people suffering from dementia do things in everyday life is known as assistive technology. This technology helps promote independence and autonomy among seniors, reduce stress, and manage potential risks at home.
Assisted technology includes a range of innovations such as ‘smart home’ systems (that you can instruct to switch off the lights or turn on the heating), electronic pill boxes (that remind you to take medication), and many more. Alternatively, general technology, such as mobile phone apps, may also help caregivers in their caregiving endeavors and Alzheimer’s patients in staying active.
The following are some of the helpful technologies for caregivers and dementia patients.
1. Memory Problems and Management of Daily Activities
There are a variety of devices that can assist if your patient’s memory loss is interfering with their daily life. Each device typically functions by providing a visual, verbal, or audible reminder to do something.
(i) Automated Reminders
Several devices are available for setting reminders, and you can customize them as per your needs. Some may include a voice recording of you, a family member, or a friend. You can record messages on the devices that set reminders and play them to remind the person to take medicine at the right time or perform other activities when you are not around. Others can detect motion and play a pre-recorded message upon sensing movement.
(ii) Clocks and Calendars
Automatic calendar clocks, specifically designed for dementia patients, are available to help them distinguish the day of the week and the time of the day. Talking clocks and clock and calendar apps are also available to assist caregivers in managing the memory issues of their patients.
(iii) Medication Aids
Medication aids may help people with dementia take their medicine at the right time. They can be simple, like a pillbox, or advanced, like automatic pill dispensers. Simple pillboxes have separate sections for days of the week and times of the day. Automatic pill dispensers, on the other hand, are pre-filled and locked. The dispenser sets off an alarm when it is the time to take medicine, and the right section opens so that you can have the right pills.
(iv) Locator Devices
People with Alzheimer’s disease may wander. GPS location and tracking devices may help caregivers cope with such situations. You can have your patient wear them so that their alert system lets you know if the person has left a particular area. Some locator devices can also help the patients find misplaced items. A small electronic tag is attached to the objects, which helps locate them.
(v) Vision and hearing aids
A wide range of devices is available to help people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia with sight and hearing problems. For instance, handheld magnifiers and electronic magnifying video screens can be used for sight, while hearing aids and amplified phones (with louder speech volumes and ringtones) can be used for hearing issues.
2. Technology for Safety
Assistive technology encourages independence and helps make the home safer for Alzheimer’s patients. While assistive technology can help curtail risks, it does not entirely eliminate them. Technology that makes you feel safe can be a huge help and an essential part of living well with dementia. It could include the following:
- Automatic lights that turn on upon sensing movement and turn off when the room has been empty for a set time.
- Water isolation devices that automatically turn off the tap if left running.
- Fall sensors automatically detect and get immediate assistance for the person susceptible to falls.
- Automated shut-off devices that turn off a cooker or stop the gas supply if the gas is on.
- Special plugs that let you keep the required water depth in a sink or bath. If the water level rises above a certain level, the plug opens and drains the water. They can also have heat sensors that change the plug color upon getting too hot, preventing burns.
(i) Telecare Systems
Telecare systems are another way of ensuring the safety of your patient. These systems allow people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia to live independently, knowing that their family or friends will be notified if they run into a problem.
Telecare systems may include sensors, movement detectors, community alarms, and video calling. An alarm is linked to a particular person or a call center, who gets alerted when a sensor detects an issue and when the patients themselves press a panic button or community alarm. These systems require a telephone line or an internet connection to function.
Various telecare systems are available for different situations, including community alarms, monitored medication reminders, and sensors (for example, water, temperature, door, and movement sensors). Bed or chair sensors are put on the bed or chair and alert the family or friends if the patient gets up and does not return after a particular time or does not get up in the morning.
3. Socializing and Doing Things Your Patient Enjoy
Assisted technology can help your patients socialize, stay engaged, and do things they enjoy. A variety of apps are available for mobile phones and tablet devices to help the person remain active. Besides, other technological innovations, ranging from simple to sophisticated ones, can also assist them in achieving these goals. These include phones (pre-programmed with numbers), video chat, communication apps, social media, online forums or communities, sensory devices (that use touch, sound, and light to stimulate senses), and digital games and puzzles. Digital photo frames are also available that can make the patient reminisce about their life events by viewing a slideshow of photos.