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By Rosetta Jenson
The right technology and devices can help support general health and wellness for its users. This is especially crucial when caring for elderly patients with dementia. Chronic loneliness in the elderly can lead to substantial physical and mental health effects, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and a weaker immune system. Notably, prolonged loneliness has been related to a higher incidence of dementia and cognitive impairment in elderly patients.
Digital technologies can help enhance dementia patients’ safety, quality of life, and independence. In this post, we’ll look at five ways technology can support elderly patients with dementia.
Pets have been proven to have benefits for dementia patients. However, their condition may hinder them from keeping and caring for real, live pets. Robot pets for patients with dementia are a good alternative that offer a true-to-life experience. Realistic robotic dogs like the Joy For All Freckled Pup are designed to have the personality and even heartbeat of a real dog while helping combat feelings of loneliness.
Studies on the use of robots for robotherapy also highlight evidence of lowered agitation, depression, anxiety, impulsiveness, restlessness, and chronic pain among dementia patients and caregivers due to robotherapy. The use of robo-animals for dementia care is beneficial as they can be used at home — perfect for patients who may have difficulty visiting hospitals, physiotherapists, and psychiatrists.
Technology can also help patients and caregivers keep track of essential medication. A study on technologies for medication adherence monitoring highlighted devices such as electronic pill bottles, blister pack technologies, and ingestible sensors that help automatically record date-and-time stamps when medication is taken to ensure medicines are taken accordingly.
Most of these technologies connect to a mobile app so patients and caregivers can access medication records without the need to do so manually and risk misplacing physical logs and notes. Some of these mobile apps will also have recorded physiological measures such as vital signs and heartbeat to a central server so caregivers can track patients’ conditions and reactions based on medication taken.
One of the more common uses of technology for supporting patients with dementia is tablet computers with social robots that help with communication enhancement and conversation support. For patients with dementia, communication and social interactions may become challenging as their condition worsens.
Communication tools can help increase both the frequency and duration of social interactions and encourage further involvement from caregivers. These tools can also be used in reminiscence sessions and provide leisure activities, helping stimulate dialogue and reducing the pressure on the conversation partner to maintain interactions.
Automated prompts and reminders
To help with memory retention and essential activities like taking medication, technology can help by offering automated prompts and reminders. This can be done by installing innovative IoT systems at home that operate through different devices to cater to various needs.
Sensors or pressure mats can be installed to detect motion and play a message when the patient walks out of the kitchen, reminding them to turn off the gas. Similarly, friends and family can record reminder messages that automatically play to remind patients to take their medication. These smart devices can be accessed remotely using tablets, PCs, and smartphones so caregivers can add reminders on behalf of the patients.
Safety alarms and alerts
Finally, patients can be taught to use wearable technologies such as smartwatches that help track their activity levels and vital signs. These can be installed to set off safety alarms, and alert loved ones and caregivers in case of accidents and mishaps.
For example, wandering is a common behavior among dementia patients, and alarms and alerts can be installed to notify caregivers of the opening of doors or windows to ensure patients’ safety. Similarly, wearable devices have built-in sensors that detect sudden movement, falls, drops, or lapses in activity levels.
Ultimately, these technologies can be used and applied in unison to help keep elderly patients with dementia alert, safe, and independent while helping make caregiving more efficient by allowing carers to focus on other essential aspects for quality of life.