What role can technology play for those  living with dementia?

As we continue our series to mark Alzheimer Month, in association with the HSE’s Dementia: Understanding Together campaign, we hear from EIBHLIS CAHALANE, Project Lead, HSE Memory Technology Resource Rooms
What role can technology play for those  living with dementia?

Eibhlis Cahalane, Project Lead, HSE Memory Technology Resource Rooms

OVER the past months, as Covid-19 has changed the world we live in, technology has helped us to stay connected with family, friends and colleagues

From family video calls to online shopping, we have all had to adapt in different ways. For those living with dementia, we have also seen the benefits of technology, with online dementia cafés bringing people together for a virtual cuppa, and dementia-inclusive choirs serenading us off into an online musical world.

Assistive technology can play a significant role in enhancing the independence and well- being of people living with dementia and memory difficulties, while also providing reassurance to families about their safety and welfare.

The words “assistive technology” relate to equipment or devices that can help a person to maintain their self-sufficiency, carry out everyday tasks and stay connected, while also helping to ensure their safety at home and supporting loved ones in their caring role.

For example, assistive technology can help with things like:

  • Remembering days, dates and times
  • Finding things frequently lost
  • Taking medication on time
  • Keeping in touch with family and friends
  • Prompting a person if the gas has been left on or a tap left running
  • Raising an alarm if in trouble
  • Letting family know where a

person is if they become lost or disorientated

Expert Advice

Memory Technology Resource Rooms have now been developed by the HSE in 27 locations across the country for people with memory problems including those living with dementia.

These rooms showcase a wide range of technologies and provide assessment and guidance on different products and how these may be helpful depending on the needs of each individual. The service offers an opportunity for the person with dementia and their families to speak to an expert occupational therapist for advice, to discuss any challenges that they are having in their day-to-day lives and to see how the equipment works.

Assistive technology for memory and cognitive impairment is developed based on evidence on what works well but, like any product, items can range in function and cost. Equipment is not sold directly by staff at the Memory Technology Resource Rooms, but staff can certainly advise where it is available. In some cases, the equipment can be loaned out so that the person with dementia or their family can have an opportunity to trial it at home and to see if it is suitable for them.

During a consultation, the occupational therapist will also signpost the person with dementia and their family or carers to other services and supports in the community that could be of benefit to them.

A One Button Radio
A One Button Radio

Wide Range

Among the items you can expect to see in a Memory Technology Resource Room are:

  • Push-button reminders with voice recordings to prompt a person to do something, e.g. turn off the cooker
  • TV remote controls and one-button radios that are accessible and easy-to-use
  • Picture phones with photos of family members on the handset so that a person can make a call by pressing a picture
  • Automatic pill dispensers which sound an alarm when it is time to take medication
  • Speaking clocks and calendars to orientate a person in time
  • Wall planners and whiteboards to provide a reminder of appointments
  • Item finders that can track down commonly mislaid items such as keys, handbag, wallet, mobile phone, TV remote control, etc.
  • Motion sensors that monitor a person’s movements during the day or night
  • Mobile phones with in-built trackers that provide reassurance a person is safe if they are going for a walk or attending an appointment

Capturing Memories

Quality of life ideas such as a life story book or a personalised memory box can also make a difference and these are on display at the Memory Technology Resource Rooms too. A very popular reminiscence item is the talking photo album. Family members can record details of each photo and so when the person with dementia presses a button, they can hear all about the day the photo was taken. People with dementia can continue to retain their emotional and longer-term memory and so this can be a wonderful gift for a loved one.

Memory Technology Resource Rooms are currently offering a mix of face-to-face consultations by appointment and telephone and video appointments. People with dementia and others with memory difficulties, along with their family members, can arrange to visit their local service free of charge.

To find out more, you can speak to your GP or Public Health Nurse, or make an appointment directly with your local Memory Technology Resource Rooms located in St. Finbarr’s Hospital, Douglas Road, Cork city, tel. 021 4923194 and the Mallow Primary Healthcare building, Mallow, tel. 022 58700 / 086 7871818.

The Dementia: Understand Together campaign is led by the HSE in partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Ireland and Age Friendly Ireland. For information on assistive technologies, as well as information on how to become a dementia champion in your community, visit www.understandtogether.ie. Alternatively, Freefone the helpline provided by The Alzheimer Society of Ireland on 1800 341 341 (Monday to Friday 10am to 5pm, Saturday 10am to 4pm).

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