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Dementia

Can technology help those living with dementia?

Technology has come a long way and there is seemingly no end to how we use it in daily life. If you are supporting someone with dementia, then you are probably wondering if apps and assistive technologies can help. The short answer is: yes.
From brain-training apps for dementia and support worker resources, to safety and orientation aids, technology is making everyday situations for those living with dementia more manageable. However, using these in conjunction with other supports is the best way to get the most out of them.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a broad term used for conditions which affect the brain. These include Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular dementia, among others. 

As dementia is a progressive condition, the person with the diagnosis will likely experience a decline in cognitive functions over time – typically in areas such as thinking, behaviour and memory. As such, performing everyday tasks will become more challenging without support. 

It’s important then that the individual, their family and the people they engage to help them, such as Independent Support Workers and medical professionals, work together to plan for the future.

Along with carers and support workers, there are also lots of supportive and assistive technologies which can greatly help the person with dementia to live life more fully and safely. These can include apps for dementia, artificial intelligence and assistive technology devices and aids.

Apps to help people living with dementia

An app is a nickname for ‘application’, which is simply any software used on a smartphone or tablet device. These days there are many apps designed for people living with and supporting those with dementia. 

As a smartphone or tablet can be challenging for a person with dementia to navigate, this technology needs to be used in conjunction with other support – such as a support worker with dementia experience assisting the person in accessing and using an app.

Here are a few great apps you can try if you or someone you know lives with dementia:

  • Lumosity
    Lumosity has mental exercises which can help people living with dementia. There are activities for improving memory, attention, problem-solving and speed of processing skills. See the frequently asked questions as to the research behind these.

    Get the Lumosity app on Google Play or the App Store.

  • Ask Annie
    Ask Annie is an app developed by Dementia Australia which helps dementia support workers and carers provide better support. There are short videos, easy-to-read summaries, interactive quizzes and more.

    Get this app through Dementia Australia.

  • The Dementia-Friendly Home
    Another app designed by Dementia Australia, The Dementia Friendly Home provides users with ideas to make the home more accessible for people living with dementia. It uses interactive 3D game technology.

    Get this app on Google Play or the App Store.

  • AmuseIT
    This app promotes conversation between adults with dementia and loved ones or support workers. Simple quiz questions and visuals work to spark conversations and to allow users to tap into past memories.

    Get it on Google Play or the App Store.

  • Headspace
    For many people living with dementia, agitation, frustration and low mood are common. This meditation app has a range of guided meditations to help calm the mind. 

    Get it on Google Play or the App Store.

  • It’s Done!
    One of the many signs of dementia is difficulty remembering daily tasks such as showering, taking meds or turning off the oven can become challenging with dementia. Tick off daily to-dos with this app that enables users to check off their tasks as they do them, without annoying notifications.

    Get it on Google Play or the App Store.

  • MyReef 3D Aquarium
    This app is a virtual simulation of a soothing aquarium. It offers those with dementia a calming environment where over 40 species of colourful fish can be zoomed in on. Users can also tap the glass and feed the fish.

    Get it on Google Play or the App Store.

  • Emergency Plus
    People with dementia can become disoriented and could potentially get lost if out and about by themselves. Developed by Australia’s 000 services, this free app has GPS, so in an emergency, 000 services can easily locate the person if they have their phone on them.

    Get it on Google Play or on the App Store.

  • A Walk Through Dementia
    Developed by Alzheimer’s Research UK, this app helps dementia support workers and carers to understand what everyday life can be like for the people they help. It includes virtual dementia challenges experienced at the supermarket, when out and about and at home. 

    Get it on Google Play or on the App Store.

Artificial Intelligence and dementia

Artificial technology or AI is the simulation of human intelligence in machines. There is now AI with traits of a human mind impacted by dementia to help people develop empathy for someone living with the condition, such as:

  • Talk with Ted

Meet Ted! Ted is living with dementia and he can teach you ways to communicate with him better. This award-winning immersive experience, designed by Dementia Australia aims to educate dementia care workers to better interact and support a person living with dementia.

Other technology to help with living with Dementia

Along with apps, there is an abundance of other supportive aids and assistive technology which can help those living with dementia. Again, these supports should be considered in conjunction with other support, such as person-to-person. They include (but are not limited to!):

Prompts and reminders 

These include things like automatic pill dispensers which have auditory and visual prompts reminding the person to take their medication and devices where voice messages can be recorded and activated at set times of the day (such as, ‘It’s 2 o’clock, time for your telehealth appointment’). 

Item finders

Item finders help the person with dementia find things when they can’t recall where they left them. Examples include, whistle key finders and devices where one part is attached to something like a wallet and the second part is a small hand-held remote. When the remote button is pressed, the other device on the wallet will sound and flash. Visual aids and signs can also help with locating things (such as, ‘coffee mugs’, ‘cutlery drawer’, etc).

Orientation aids

Clocks which display the day, date and time, different coloured door handles to make entry and exits easily identifiable, touch lamps for when switches can not easily be found, along with visual aids and signs can all help a person living with dementia to identify spaces and surrounds. 

Sensory and therapeutic supports

Sensory aids can be soothing and support a person with dementia. Examples include therapeutic dolls and interactive robotic pets to improve wellbeing, sensory cushions, music players and more.  

Safety technologies

GPS tracking devices to help find someone who has become lost, fall detection watches and pendants which have inbuilt GPS and SOS functionality – so that when a button is pressed, contacts are called, motion sensors which alarm when a person with dementia is on the move, stove guards with sensors to prevent cooking fires and magnifying tablet cutters are all examples of safety technologies which can help a person living with dementia and their carers.

FAQs

The scientific community is conflicted when it comes to the benefits of brain training apps for dementia. While there is evidence that these can be helpful in improving cognition in older people, it isn’t known yet if they prevent or lower the user’s risk of developing dementia.

Dementia is a progressive condition, so while a person with dementia may be able to use a smartphone or tablet in the early stages, this may become harder for them as time goes on. When this happens, a support worker or carer can assist the person with dementia to access and use these devices.

Living with dementia is challenging but with the right support in place, including person-to-person support and assistive technology, this can be addressed or even eased. 
Learn more about dementia with our Dementia Hub and visit the Mable website to connect with an independent support worker trained in dementia care to help you or your loved one.

    Tags

  • Dementia
  • Dementia friendly workplace
  • Dementia memory loss
  • Dementia support
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