Memory loss and dementia: technology
People living with memory loss and dementia can benefit from all sorts of different types of technology—from mainstream technologies designed for all to use, such as iPods for listening to music, to assistive technologies designed specifically to support people with memory loss and dementia.
Technology for people with memory loss and dementia can be used for:
- Social engagement and activities with friends, family and carers;
- Easing frustration and managing behaviours without recourse to medication;
- Creating a safe and secure environment;
- Monitoring from a distance in a non-intrusive way;
- Increasing independence in everyday living; and
- Making communication easier.
Social engagement and activities
Due to the nature of memory loss and dementia, focus tends to be on activities done with another person (or other people) and activities that are supported by another person. Technology can play a key role in aiding memory and general enjoyment. Web sites and apps provide digital alternatives to all manner of offline activities, including:
- Reminiscence, such as our digital reminiscence room;
- Board games;
- Sensory games;
- Viewing and editing photos; and
- Listening to music.
If you want to learn more about information and communication technology (ICT), check out the "Using ICT in activities for people with dementia" section of the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) website.
Easing frustration and managing behaviours
Technology for behavioural management can be used for improving attention span, restlessness and impulsiveness, as well as reducing anxiety and agitation.
This sort of technology currently focuses on multi-sensory activities. Some activities offer complete immersion into a physical space. These activities include:
- Immersive spaces; and
- Sensory rooms.
Other activities include the use of multi-sensory tools, toys or devices, such as:
- Vibrating tubes;
- Fibre optic string lights;
- Solar effects projectors;
- Aroma diffusers; and
- Plasma balls.
Safety and security
Technology that ensures people with memory loss and dementia remain safe and secure is essential in supporting them to live as independently as possible. As this sort of technology has evolved, it has also become less intrusive.
Although concerns have been raised around the ethics of this type of technology, when it is used appropriately, it can be hugely beneficial to the person with memory loss or dementia as well as their friends, family and carers.
Safety and security technology includes detection devices, such as:
- Flood detectors;
- Carbon monoxide detectors;
- Temperature detectors;
- Fire detectors; and
- Smoke detectors.
They also include sensors, such as:
- Motion sensors;
- Door and exit sensors;
- Bed occupancy sensors; and
- Window sensors.
In addition to these, mainstream devices can also be helpful, such as:
- Door security bars; and
- Touchpad key locks.
As many people with memory loss and dementia can become easily disorientated and prone to wandering or getting lost, unobtrusive monitoring technology can make a huge difference to overall wellbeing as well as giving enormous comfort to friends, family and carers.
Monitoring technology includes:
- Location devices;
- GPS tracking devices;
- Wearable ID devices; and
- Wearable alarms.
Memory loss and dementia can have an impact on many aspects of daily living, particularly when it comes to remembering to do certain tasks at certain times and making these tasks simpler.
The technologies used for these purposes may not be all that complex, but they are incredibly helpful. These devices include:
- Medication reminders;
- Medication organisers;
- Electronic calendars with task reminders;
- Orientation clocks;
- Automatic temperature controls;
- Lamp and light activation controls;
- Automated appliances, such as ovens, dishwashers and washing machines;
- Automatic window and curtain controls;
- Garden sensors for automated watering; and
- Electronic showers, taps and toilets.
Many people with memory loss and dementia experience social isolation, so ensuring that they can communicate with friends and family, as well as being able to participate in family events and festivals, is vital. For general communication, mainstream technology is used by most, as follows:
- Email for written communication; and
- Online voice or video calling, such as Skype and FaceTime, for verbal or virtual face-to-face communication.
For those who are unable to attend synagogue services, many synagogues are now streaming their services so that people who are unable to attend can listen to them online. Check with your synagogue to find out if they offer this service.
To help with one-to-one communication, the use of Adaptive and Alternative Communication (AAC) tools can be very helpful. If you want to explore the different types of AAC apps, have a look at the "Free or Lite Versions of AAC Apps" of the Practical AAC website.
To find out more about technology for people with memory loss and dementia, please visit the AT Dementia website.