By Sandra Quinn
Will you do me a favour? Just a small one and I promise it won’t take up much of your time, but it will be worthwhile. Put down whatever you are doing, settle into a comfortable seat and just immerse yourself in this blog for the next four minutes.
You have had an interesting life, filled with love, laughter, tears and heartbreak. There have been up and downs, but you have had loved ones around you to help you through the hard times and to belly-laugh with you through the hilarious moments.
You are a strong, independent woman in your seventies and while you knew old age would come for you, and you expected the joint aches, the wrinkles and saying goodbye to more friends every year as they pass to their eternal rest – you did not expect what is happening to you now.
You wake up feeling distressed, completely alone even in a room full of people and your mind is consumed by a confusion, the likes of which you have never felt before.
Your loved ones are here, they are in this room, but you don’t know them. You don’t know why the young man with the friendly eyes is calling you Mum. You can’t understand why the little girl playing dolls at your feet keeps asking how Nana is. But you do know this – you are not the woman you once were. Every day there is a glimmer of hope when you remember just for a moment who you were in your former life, but it disappears just as quickly as it appears.
You hope and pray for a cure to this awful disease, which the doctors tell you is dementia, but with every fading memory, that hope seems further away.
This is the story of people from all over the world who are diagnosed with dementia every single day.
Technology is not something people usually associate with dementia, but when you think about the cognitive development benefits of using technology, it all fits together.
Thanks to years of research, technology is now seen as an aid to promote independence among those living with dementia. Even simple steps, like putting appointments, names, prompts or reminders into a smartphone or tablet, can help people to remember things and plan their days.
Things like GPS trackers on phones and devices can also help prevent people from getting lost in places, which may seem unfamiliar and also to reduce worry and stress for loved ones, as they can see that the person is safe.
Technology and smart home devices, as well as CCTV cameras hooked up to personal devices can also help to detect fires, smoke, gas leaks, floods or to check up on someone if you haven’t heard from them.
Multi-sensory technology, such as strobe lighting, vibrating tubes, music, an aroma diffuser and plasma ball, have all been seen to improve attention span, restlessness, wandering and impulsiveness, while also reducing anxiety and agitation for the patient.
One of the most exciting technological developments is that of the robotic assistant. One was developed by Trinity College Dublin in November of 2017.
The creators did not want to replace humans in the care system, but suggested that the robots could do small mundane jobs, while leaving the carer to carry on with more personal aspects of the care and they could also provide a constant presence, allowing the patient to remain at home in familiar surroundings.
The robot, which they called Stevie, could remind a patient to take medication, could turn up the heating if the temperature sensor detected a drop, while also giving the patient companionship and giving them something to talk to and interact with, though it is of course not a replacement for human interaction.
“We’re trying to develop technology that helps and complements human care. We want to combine human empathy, compassion and decision-making with the efficiency, reliability and continuous operation of robotics,” the inventors said in an article on phys.org.
Stevie can talk, make gestures, show facial expressions and display text on the screen, making it much easier to use than modern day technology.
As innovations are developed, it is clear that technology plays a key role in the care of dementia patients and over time, it may even hold a cure.