Helping Elderly Aged Care Residents Improve Well-being Through Technology

A guide to help aged care organisations support residents to use technology and social media to stay connected with their loved ones was launched in Canberra recently. Tech Connect: Staying Meaningfully Connected in Aged Care is a valuable resource using technology to help make the lives of older Australians better. There is a growing trend towards using technology in aged care to support and uplift the lives of our seniors. As an Aged Care Placement Consultant I see the benefit of using technology to help residents in aged care stay connected.

Launched by Meaningful Ageing Australia, the aim of Tech Connect is to support residents’ spiritual wellbeing by helping them maintain important connections with family, friends and occasions. Written by Southern Cross Care spiritual wellbeing coordinator Beate Steller, who utilises technology at SCC’s Nagle Residential Aged Care to keep connections going, it helps to maintain residents’ familial relationships, helping to overcome physical separation.

Ms. Steller said “It is not just the technology but the way you facilitate it and make the connections before, during and after an event.” For example an 87-year-old resident of the facility realised she was too frail to attend her grandson’s wedding, so the wedding was brought to her. Shown on a large screen with residents celebrating with a high tea Pat was able to be involved in the wedding despite her physical limitations. “In the weeks leading up there was all the preparation, the couple skyped Pat before the wedding and afterwards it was all the reminiscing and the memories,” Ms Steller said.

Technology has been adapted in other ways too. Talk2Me aims to fill a gap through the development of a voice-to-voice translation tool, designed with the needs of older people, particularly those living with dementia, in mind. People talk into the device, which translates their message into another appropriate language, forming a communication link with another person. This will be a game changer for people with dementia from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds as it will improve the quality of care, with their carers able to understand their needs, thus reducing the need for potentially avoidable hospitalisations. The project is by the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI), Curve Tomorrow and Mercy Health and has received funding from the Department of Health.

Even pain can be better monitored through an App called ePAT, developed by Curtin University that assesses pain in people with dementia. A study, recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, tested the validity and reliability of the electronic pain assessment tool in people with moderate to severe dementia. The research found strong positive correlation in the psychometric properties between the ePAT App and the Abbey Pain Scale.

Using the camera in a smartphone or tablet to video an individual with dementia, then using facial recognition software to detect the presence of facial micro-expressions that are indicative of the presence of pain the App combines this information with other pain indicators, such as vocalisations, behaviours and movements, to generate a pain severity score. As pain is very common among people with dementia, who often lose the ability to communicate verbally as the disease progresses, this pain can go undetected. An App that can help detect severe pain can only help to make their lives more comfortable.

 

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