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How to ease daily life through technology for people with dementia

For those caring for someone with dementia, chances are that you have become a problem solver, finding solutions to situations that arise as part of your loved one’s journey through the course of their disease. Many have discovered that technology can be a part of that solution.

Assistive technology has the potential to enhance day-to-day life for someone with a memory impairment. There are no one-size-fits-all answers and one must consider the individual, the situation, and be aware of what is required to effectively use the technology itself.

For example, can and will your loved one be able to use a device that is wearable?, If the technology requires self-reporting, like an emergency alert pendant, will your loved one resist using it for fear they will lose their independence? Caregivers risk complicating things by employing technology that relies on the user relying – in this case someone with a memory deficit – to remember to charge their memory-assistive device.

Below are various technology aids that may prove helpful: 

1. Clocks

Your loved one may find comfort in a daily routine but maintaining one can be challenging if they keep losing track of the time, or the day of the week. Additionally, they may have difficulty deciphering a traditional clock face. Clocks are now available that present the time in large digital numbers, as well as the month, day of the week and whether it is morning or nighttime.

2. Appointment alerts and voice-activated assistants

Most smartphones and tablets can be programmed to set alarms and provide reminders about an appointment or when to take medication. In addition, voice-activated assistants can also operate lights and some appliances, or answer potentially repetitive questions like, “What day is it?” These can be setup directly on a smartphone using Siri (Apple) or Google Assist (Android).

If your loved one does not have a smartphone, you can also consider purchasing a device such as Amazon’s Echo or Alexa and setting it up with an Amazon account, which can provide a wealth of information and entertainment using voice-activation such as the weather forecast, daily news updates or streaming a favorite genre of music. 

3. Appliance use monitors

Forgetting to turn things off can be an issue as dementia advances, which poses a safety concern if you don’t live with your loved one. Consider an appliance use monitor to help keep track of things like the microwave, coffeemaker, TV, lamps, curling iron, garage door, or CPAP machine.

Appliance monitors, that plug into a power strip or wall outlet, let you remotely check the status of an appliance – and even turn something off if your loved one forgot. The monitors also let you adjust lights, fans, or the thermostat.

4. Personal locators

Not being able to recognize familiar locations, or becoming physically lost during a walk or drive, is a sign of early dementia that can complicate the lives of individuals who may otherwise continue to live relatively independently. In later stages, wandering could be an issue. In both cases, location management devices can provide peace of mind.

The Alzheimer’s Association outlines a variety of tracking systems caregivers can utilize. The devices may use GPS, radio frequency or online technology and may be designed into bracelets, pendants, watches, shoe inserts, car devices or adhesive patches, among other things.

Some tracking systems will alert a care provider when a loved one leaves a designated “safe zone.” Within the home, door monitors and pressure sensitive mats or bed covers can alert caregivers of a person’s movements.

If you do not live with your loved one, in-home video monitors let you view strategic areas in their home. Some contain speakers so you can talk to one another.

Other safety devices available for memory impairment

  • Motion sensors can be used to automatically turn lights on and off when a person enters or exits a room.
  • Medical alert devices/Personal Emergency Response Systems can provide peace of mind when seniors live alone, regardless of whether they have a memory impairment.
  • Automated pill dispensers can be easily programmed to beep, flash or otherwise signal when it’s time for medication, then dispense the exact dosage. Multiple alarms can be set for each day. Some dispensers allow you to record voice reminders. Your loved one will hear your voice stating exactly what is being dispensed and why, easing anxiety that may come with taking medicine. More expensive pill dispensers are available that enable remote monitoring and can notify caregivers if a dose is missed. 

The best technology makes our lives easier by providing simple solutions to every-day problems. Assistive technology that solves some of the common stumbling blocks encountered by people with dementia enables them to navigate their environment safely and gives caregivers greater peace of mind.

To learn more about Elderwood’s memory care program and get support in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, click here.   

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