People with dementia face many challenges in their daily lives. Tasks that may seem simple to us, such as getting washed in the morning, can become confusing and daunting if you have dementia. Friends and families of the person with dementia may worry that they will leave taps running or put themselves at risk of harm in other ways. The introduction of telecare services can keep people with dementia safe in their own homes and give their relatives and friends confidence in their ability to live independently for longer.
There are many technological solutions that are useful to people suffering from dementia and elderly people in general. Pendant alarms for the elderly enable the person to activate an alarm by using a pull cord, pendant or push button that connects to a control centre. A response from a relative, neighbour or friend can then be organised quickly. Key safes are usually used to allow these people access to the property when necessary. Sensors installed in the home that can monitor the environment and alert carers when there are problems with gas, smoke or flooding have been fairly common for some time. However, more information, such as whether taps are running or electrical appliances are being used, can now be collected and transmitted. They can also monitor when doors are opened, and PIRs (passive infrared sensors) can detect when the person with dementia is moving around inside or leaving the home. Small wireless sensors can also create an online chart of the person’s activity in their home, and this can be seen by professionals and family members. If the person is at risk, appropriate action can be taken, but their needs can also be assessed more accurately.
Technology can seem very alien to older people initially, but those in the early stages of dementia can learn to use it safely and confidently. They may be more accepting of new systems if sensors are installed and they are shown how their behaviour may be putting them at risk - for example, by leaving the gas on or wandering outside in the night. This can often convince them of the benefits of installing the technology so that they can remain in their own home safely. As familiarity with the systems increases, both clients and carers welcome the benefits it can bring. Family members can easily check on their loved ones, and it can make caring duties easier because they do not have to be with the person physically to know they are safe. Other applications include fall detectors, medication reminders and devices that prevent baths and sinks from overflowing if the taps are left on. Care has to be taken that the noise or alarm of the device is not frightening to the person. A message in the carer’s voice can be recorded on some devices for reminders to the person with dementia, and it can be reassuring for them to hear a familiar voice. This can be useful if they need to be prompted to carry out tasks such as locking doors or closing windows at night. Ensuring that the person with dementia understands how the technology works and that it can help them to remain independent is very important to its acceptance.