Technology is many times considered a controversial topic. There are those who are strong supporters, while many others consider it even dangerous and immoral. Regardless, it cannot be denied that, in many ways, technology has made our lives easier. We can travel from one distant city to another within hours, we can talk to someone living on the other side of the world in real-time, and we can accurately diagnose a huge number of diseases thanks to machines.
This last application, namely technology applied to the medical field, is one of the most interesting for its potential not only to make life easier, but also to save it. In the case of dementia, there are many ways in which technology has been applied to be able to diagnose more accurately the condition, and manage it symptoms more efficiently.
However, these technologies must always have the users’ requirements and needs as their rationale. They should:
- Give a feeling of independence to the person.
- Support the person in making choices.
- Have a positive impact on his/her life.
- Support skills maintained or do not emphasise lost skills.
- Not focus on the user as a person with disabilities, but support the self-image of being a person with abilities.
- Remind the solutions that existed before.
- The use of the products is possible by the information visible/available at all times.
Accordingly, technologies designed for dementia care and management can be categorized is the following ways:
- Devices that are operated by the person (e.g. radio, TV, mobile phone, car).
- Systems and devices that others have installed and maintain, but which the person uses (electricity, water supply system, air condition).
- Monitoring and surveillance systems and devices which are either activated by the user (e.g. safety alarms), or activated automatically when an incident occurs (e.g. fire alarm or fall alarm), or which monitor continuously or when the operator decides (e.g. cameras installed at public places or tagging devices).
As to the needs of a person living with dementia that technologies should fulfil, we can identify the following:
- They should promote safety (e.g. night lamps, flood detection, cooker switch off devices).
- They should foster communication and address memory loss problems (e.g. picture button telephones).
- They should provide multi-sensory stimulation (e.g. picture-gramophone).
- They should act as memory enhancers (e.g. reminder messages, electronic calendars, item locators, and medicine reminders).
source: Cahill, S., et al. (2007), Technology in dementia care, Technology and Disability, 19, pp. 55-60.