Current Technology for
Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease
George, a 75 year old gentleman with Alzheimer’s, attends the local adult day center three days a week. Doing this allows him some important social time, and an opportunity to engage with other seniors in a safe and structured environment. It also allows his wife, his primary caregiver, time to take care of her own personal and health needs, as well as manage their home and keep up with the church and charity activities to which she is committed. George enjoys his time at the center. Toward the end of the day, though, when others are departing, he becomes agitated by the commotion of the departures of fellow seniors. To minimize his agitation and risk of wandering out the door with them, the center and George’s wife collaborated on loading an iPod with George’s favorite music – from classical to opera to big band. With ear phones and an iPod, he is easily soothed and focused on listening, and not distracted by the commotion of the late afternoon. It is a great solution, both for his agitation, and for his safety.
Mr. Knight, shown in the video below, also benefits from new technology. With the help of a social worker, her tablet and some apps, he emerges from behind his dementia. It is a touching and beautiful moment to watch.
Who would have thought technology now embraced by so many in younger generations would have applications for one with Alzheimer’s? As is evident from the above scenarios, these are ways to use technology to reach an individual with Alzheimer’s or dementia. As Mr. Knight’s daughter says, “For twenty minutes, I get my daddy back.”
Maximizing Independence and Functioning
As a disease that causes loss of thinking, memory, and reasoning skills, and seriously affects the ability to carry out daily activities, Alzheimer’s triples healthcare costs for Americans 65 and older.
The good news though, is that technology is providing more possibilities for those with Alzheimer’s, as well as for their caregivers: by maximizing independence, improving quality of life, reducing neuropsychiatric symptoms, and reducing caregiver burden.
Tele-health technologies have numerous applications in the home or care facility, and have been shown to relieve stress for both care recipient and caregiver:
Video monitoring technology supports both care recipient and caregiver, by providing useful content for care plan discussions with professionals and more immediate feedback for caregiver;
More immediate feedback to help a caregiver make changes in their approach to difficult behaviors can decrease stress for care recipient and caregiver.
Additional tele-health technology includes exit-sensors, enuresis sensors, flood detectors, CO detectors, extreme temperature detectors, bed occupancy sensors, and medication reminders.
Technology for safety is designed to protect the care recipient, provide ongoing surveillance, prevent injuries, and prevent unintended exits from the home.
Safety devices include medication organizers, wearable ID program devices, location technology, bed occupancy sensors, door security bars, touchpad key locks, and window sensors.
Recent studies have provided evidence of the benefits of non-pharmacological treatments in managing agitation and other difficult behaviors.
In a pilot study of people with dementia in an adult day center, Riley-Doucet and Dunn (2013) measured behaviors before and after a multisensory intervention, and concluded that the treatments used, such as a vibrating tube, music, a fiber optic string light, a solar effects projector, an aroma diffuser and a plasma ball, were instrumental in improving attention span, restlessness, wandering and impulsiveness, to name a few. Caregivers, too, indicated satisfaction with the experience, and believed the multi-sensory technology was useful for reducing anxiety and agitation among their care recipients.
Technology for All
Technology has taken a place in caring for our loved ones by providing some wonderful tools, both for those with Alzheimer’s, and for those who care for them. This can include engaging a loved one with Alzheimer’s, managing behaviors non-pharmacologically, creating a safer environment, or monitoring from a distance.
Kathleen S. Allen, LCSW, LICSW, C-ASWCM Eldercare Consultant/Geriatric Care Manager Senior Care Management Services, LLC
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