Current Technology for Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease

Kathleen Allen, LCSW, C-ASWCM

Senior Care Management Services, LLC

  • Expert Advice
Published on:
Digital device

Whether it be for engaging a loved one with Alzheimer’s, managing behaviors non-pharmacologically, creating a safer environment, or monitoring from a distance, 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.

Whether it be for engaging a loved one with Alzheimer’s, managing behaviors non-pharmacologically, creating a safer environment or monitoring from a distance, technology has 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.

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 and primary caregiver, time to take care of her own personal and health needs, as well as manage their home and keep up with her church and charitable activities. George enjoys his time at the center. Toward the end of the day, though, he often 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 iPhone with George’s favorite music – from classical to opera to big band. With his headphones and iPhone, he is easily soothed, and not distracted by the commotion of the late afternoon. It is a great solution, both for his agitation, and for his safety.

Maximizing Independence and Functioning

As a disease that causes loss of thinking, memory, and reasoning skills, and seriously affects one’s ability to carry out daily activities, Alzheimer’s triples healthcare costs for Americans 65 and older.

Technology though, provides more possibilities for those with Alzheimer’s, and for their caregivers. It can maximize independence, improve safety and quality of life, reduce neuropsychiatric symptoms, and lessen caregiver burden. Some proven examples include Amazon’s Alexa for daily reminders, or a customized iPad for reminders about appointments and activities. Each of these has been shown to provide the one with Alzheimer’s with more independence, giving the caregiver a little less to do.

Tele-Health Technology

Tele-health technologies have numerous applications in the home or care facility, and can relieve stress for both care recipient and caregiver:

  1. 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;
  2. More immediate feedback to help a caregiver make changes in their approach to difficult behaviors can decrease stress for care recipient and caregiver.
  3. Additional tele-health technology includes exit-sensors, enuresis sensors, flood detectors, carbon monoxide (CO) detectors, extreme temperature detectors, bed occupancy sensors, and medication reminders.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, tele-health technology became a standard technology for health care professionals. It is safe and effective when consulting with patients and families, and eliminates many trips to the physician’s office.

Safety

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.

One example of a safety solution is to place a GPS tracker on the pet dog of a person with Alzheimer’s, when it is a dog that never leaves the person’s side. This way the family would know the location of both owner and dog in the event of an emergency.

Behavioral Management

Non-pharmacological treatments to manage agitation and other difficult behaviors can be effective first line interventions.

In a pilot study of people with dementia in an adult day center, Riley-Doucet and Dunn (2013) measured behaviors before and after a multi-sensory 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

The independence and positivity technology can give a person with Alzheimer’s, means the less his caregiver will need to do. Whether it be an off-the shelf technology or a customized app, technology has a place by providing some wonderful tools, both for those with Alzheimer’s, and for those who care for them.

About the author

Kathleen Allen_2

Kathleen Allen, LCSW, C-ASWCM

Senior Care Management Services, LLC

Kathleen Allen has been working with older adults and their families for over 20 years.

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