Tech is a major driving force in modern caregiving and healthcare. Let’s take a closer look at some of the apps and gadgets that are changing how dementia is treated.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, there are currently 5,8 million Americans living with dementia, and the number is expected to increase with nearly half a million more sufferers added every single year. Caring for someone with Alzheimer's or dementia can often be a heavy burden, and many people are on the lookout for apps and devices that can make a difference for both patients and caregivers. However, some of the options aren’t living up to the high standards necessary for quality dementia care.
A study that was recently published in the scientific journal Current Alzheimer Research stated that while there are several benefits of technological solutions, there is still a lack of clinical evidence in regards to efficiency and security. This is a sentiment that has also been expressed by the Alzheimer's Association, but luckily, there are areas where certain types of readily available technology have been proven to help. For people with dementia, calendars, talking devices, and global positioning systems (GPS) can support memory and time orientation while improving safety in daily life. These tools can also lower the burden for the caregiver and promote a more worry-free existence for everyone. These were some of the conclusions reached in an in-depth review published in BioMed Research International. However, how do you decide which tech is the right choice?
Caregivers are essential to the successful use of new technology
We must remember that caregivers, both informal caregivers such as family, relatives, and friends, and caregivers in a health care setting, face many challenges. Especially when dealing with new technology. It’s often not feasible to expect the person affected by dementia to adapt to the latest apps easily. That’s why both a sufferer and a caregiver-perspective must be applied when deciding on which solutions to use. According to an article published in BMC Geriatrics, assistive technology not only reduce caregiver burden but is also becoming somewhat of a necessity in times with an ever-increasing elderly population. However, how do you know which technology is the right choice?
How to decide on technology-assisted treatment
When deciding on whether technology-assisted dementia treatment is the right way to go, there are a few things to consider. By carefully contemplating both the pros and cons of any given tech solution, you’ll be able to make a much better choice.
Has the disease progressed to the point where assistance is needed?
Is the affected person comfortable with the technology?
Will the caregiver be able to get the most out of the technology?
Does technology promote caregiver freedom? Knowing that things are under control, even when you’re out, is often a great comfort.
Does the solution require a minimum amount of configuration, and is it easy to use?
The bottom line is: Will the technology make a difference? According to the support community Alz You Need, finding the right tools is often a matter of becoming aware of specific caregiving challenges. They have a list of useful and available products and offer free personalized technology recommendations.
Useful and readily available options
Some of the best options are often available within arm’s reach and are already a part of our everyday technological repertoire. Let’s take a closer look at some readily available technology that has shown to make a difference.
Calendars and planners
Calendar apps are readily available. iPhone Calendar, Google Calendar, and Windows Calendar all make it easy to synchronize calendars between devices, and often offer spoken reminders and notifications. This is a great way to ease the burden of keeping track of everything and free up some mental space for patients, caregivers, family, and everyone involved.
Virtual assistants and voice technology
Voice-activated virtual assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are great ways to offer an intuitive and semi-social way of interacting with everything from music to the digital home. They can also be configured to provide vocal reminders to ensure a sense of continuity.
Using video call software is a great way to keep in contact. Compared to a regular phone call, a video chat provides both visual cues as to the well-being of the person on the other side and often provides a much greater sense of comfort.
Specialized apps and gadgets
There are several apps and devices specially designed to cater to the care of Alzheimer’s dementia.
The mobile application Alzheimer Master for Android-based smartphones has notifications, a function to stimulate memories and much more. It can also keep track of reactions by recording them with the phones built-in camera and microphone.
While initially designed for kids, the GPS-tracker
is a simple and effective way to keep track of anyone who might tend to wander off. Instant tracking can be an essential tool for both safety and peace of mind.
Since music has been shown to have a significant effect of the brain, Dr. Redulph Tanzi launched the streaming music app SPARK Memories Radio which plays memorable songs, selected based on the users birth date.
Exciting future for home-based support and effective care
With the advent of modern software technology and the growing number of specialized digital devices, the future is looking very bright for tech-assisted treatment of dementia. Even though the research still has some ways to go, it is becoming increasingly clear that technology will be a major game changer for caregivers, patients, and the entire field of healthcare. Since families and relatives are often the ones who carry the burden and suffer the stress, of managing family members suffering from dementia, technological solutions can very well be a major factor in maintaining quality of life for everyone involved.