Living with Alzheimer's: Assistive Technology Can Change Your Life

Assistive technology is a potential intervention tool for Alzheimer's disease, offering innovative solutions to reduce the global burden of dementia.
If you have Alzheimer's-related memory loss, assistive technology can make your life easier.
If you have Alzheimer's-related memory loss, assistive technology can make your life easier.Image: Pixabay

Alzheimer's disease is one of the most common causes of dementia and it usually affects people over the age of 65.  It can be defined as progressive loss of cognitive, behavioral, and social skills that impair an individual's ability to function independently.

It is a life-limiting brain disorder that affects memory, thinking ability, and even the ability to perform the most basic activities of daily living (ADLs). Due to decline in memory, people diagnosed with dementia can often become aggressive as they find it difficult to express themselves and may experience anxiety, restlessness, or irritability from disruption of trying to complete the fundamental everyday tasks. These personality changes can often strain families. Information and communication technology, artificial intelligence initiatives, and assistive technologies provide the potential to supplement care, address some of the psychosocial issues raised by the increasing need, and can lessen the burden on caregivers by enhancing independence, quality of life, and assist the PWD (Person/People With Dementia) to lead active lives.

In developing countries, the majority of the People diagnosed with Dementia (PWD) live with their families; Providing care to a PWD is well-known to be a stressful experience that can affect both the physical and mental health of the family caregivers (FCG’s). These FCG’S often experience a much higher burden and are prone to develop mental health issues. Knowledge about the recent trends in dementia care such as assistive technologies by both the PWD and their FGC's would reduce their burden. They can adopt and implement such technological innovations in managing dementia.
Pallerla Srikanth, PhD Scholar, Department of Psychiatric Social Work, National institute of mental health and neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, India.

What is Assistive technology and what are the benefits of Assistive Technology:
Assistive technology refers to devices and systems that improve learning, enhance function, maintain safety, and enable people to work independently.

  • Improves quality of life through increased autonomy and enablement.

  • ADL (Activities of Daily Living) Assistance.

  • Relieves caregiver burden.

  • Notifies caregivers when assistance is needed in any activity to reduce fall injuries or affliction.

  • Augmented reality instructions or prompts can be advantageous to remind the patients to drink water, eat food, or take medications.

If you have Alzheimer's-related memory loss, assistive technology can make your life easier.
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Assistive technology available for People With Dementia

1) Voice reminder: Voice reminders can be customized by family members or caregivers to remind them about daily activities.

2) Smart home system: Motion/fall sensor technology can alert the caretaker when the individual is at high risk of falling from the bed or chair which reduces falls and injuries.

3) Automated pill dispensers: Beeping sound or flashing light signals to take the medication and dispense the exact amount required into a dosage cup which will help individuals to stay compliant with medications.

4) Clocks/ Watches: Clocks specifically designed for dementia can also help to reduce anxiety as people with dementia tend to lose track of time.

5) Monitoring: Individuals with dementia are prone to disorientation and wandering, so doors with exit sensors can alert the family members. GPS trackers can be used to monitor the exact location.

6) Communication Aids: Stay connected with geographically distant loved ones using Skype, Facetime, etc. Adapted telephone can be preprogrammed with frequently dialed numbers and emergency contacts, and with feature of enlarged buttons for ease of use. Apps like Talking Mat help people communicate their feelings through a selection of images and symbols.

  7) Digital games: Computer-based cognitive training consisting of game programs specifically designed to improve memory, attention, and problem solving can help ward off cognitive decline by keeping the memory sharp. Mentally stimulating activities like playing games can reduce the risk of cognitive delay according to a study published on 08/06/2019 in Neurology.

Preprogrammed phones with frequently dialed numbers and emergency contacts with a feature of enlarged buttons for ease of use.
Preprogrammed phones with frequently dialed numbers and emergency contacts with a feature of enlarged buttons for ease of use.Image: Pixabay

Factors to consider before purchasing an assistive device:

- Thoroughly assess the specific needs and personal preferences.

- Complexity, adaptability and learning curve required to use the device.

 - Select the device type that meets your needs and provides the most battery life.

- The cost and maintenance of using assistive technology.

- Availability of modifications or changes to devices as the condition progresses.

If you have Alzheimer's-related memory loss, assistive technology can make your life easier.
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