Some aspects of technology in our society can be concerning, however it is certainly here to stay and some of the innovations it is introducing to help those living with dementia are truly encouraging. As an Aged Care Placement Consultant I often help clients that live with dementia find suitable aged care accommodation and I see first-hand the difficulties they face in everyday life and receiving the level of support they need.
A new assistive technology prototype called DRESS is being developed right now to help people with dementia dress themselves. It is designed for those who struggle with remembering how to perform day to day activities and will hopefully give them more independence and privacy.
The prototype – designed by NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, Arizona State University and MGH Institute of Health Professions with experts from gerontology, engineering, social sciences, nursing and psychology – uses a mixture of sensors on clothing and a set of dresser drawers. The drawers contain one item of clothing per drawer, in accordance with the Alzheimer Association’s dressing guidelines. It also combines automated vocal prompts recorded by the carer, to help correct dressing errors such as wearing a shirt back to front.
The carer initiates the sequence via a mobile device and the recorded voice prompts the dresser to start to dress, with red lights and prompts activated if the person dressing makes a mistake. Stress levels are also measured with an inbuilt soother if they rise too high.
Using similar technology to the automated voice prompts reminders can be recorded on a device in the home and then played back out loud at the appropriate time. Messages can be set by time or activity, for example, a message can remind a person to take medication at a certain time or when a person leaves their home, a reminder message could tell them to lock the front door.
Using this recorded message system can help people living with dementia to remain independent yet safe.
Home care robots
With Japan’s ageing society facing a predicted shortfall of 370,000 caregivers by 2025, the Japanese government wants to increase community acceptance of technology that could help fill the gap in the nursing workforce. One of these is a simple robotic device that helps frail residents get out of their bed and into a wheelchair, or that can ease senior citizens into bathtubs.
The government sees a wider range of potential applications that could be developed to assist. Dr Hirohisa Hirukawa, director of robot innovation research at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, said the aims included easing the burden on nursing staff and boosting the autonomy of people still living at home.