According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is an overall term for diseases and conditions characterized by a decline in memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking skills that can affect a person’s ability to complete everyday tasks. Of the 5 million individuals diagnosed with age-related dementia’s in the United States, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 80% of these cases. As dementia progresses, it can cause patients to lose some of their independence and rely on caregivers to help them complete daily tasks like bathing, eating, and getting dressed. The Alzheimer’s Association reported that nearly 48% of all caregivers in the United States provide care to someone with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Because many Alzheimer’s and dementia patients rely heavily on caregivers, it can cause a loss of independence and autonomy. However, in recent years, new technology has allowed those diagnosed with memory disorders to feel independent for longer.
Benefits of Technology to Help Alzheimer’s Patients
Assistive technology is a term often used to refer to items, devices or technological systems used by individuals to make daily living a little easier. There a number of assistive technology devices designed specifically for those with memory diseases, such as Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. While these technologies won’t completely eliminate the need for caregiving support, they can promote feelings of independence. Here are a few ways assistive technology can be beneficial for those with cognitive diseases, especially a form of dementia:
Some assistive technology devices are designed specifically to keep people safe. Items like motion sensors and automatic lights can be installed to decrease the risks of falls or related injuries. Devices such as medical alert pendants and smart home devices can be programmed to contact emergency services when they are needed.
Other technologies are designed to help complete basic daily tasks like remembering when to take your medicine, automated curtain controls, robot vacuums, and touch censored toilets and sinks. As dementia progresses, it can affect a person’s range of motion, making it difficult to bend fingers and hands. Devices designed towards everyday living allow a person to complete tasks in a different way.
In some cases, dementia patients can often become wander risks. This can quickly become a scary situation for both the patient and the caregiver. Some assistive technology devices such as door and exit sensors can immediately alert family members or caregivers when a loved one has left.
As dementia progresses, communication can become difficult. Some technologies provide innovative ways to communicate with healthcare providers, family members, and friends to encourage socialization, while also receiving timely answers to medical questions.
Technology and Dementia: Available Types
Whether you’re a caregiver supporting someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, or if you have been diagnosed with a memory disease, there are many assistive devices that can help complete daily tasks. Here are a few devices you might find helpful:
• Calendar Apps can be helpful for both the caregiver and the person receiving support. Apps such as Google Calendar can be set up to give reminders for appointments or tracking medication schedules.
• Video calling services such as Skype and FaceTime can help those living with dementia feel more connected with their families, especially if they live far away.
• Voice-activated assistants can provide entertainment, reminders, and safety alerts. These devices offered by Amazon and Google can play music, read audiobooks, tell jokes, and even be set up to control the lights in your house. These devices can be programmed to call emergency services in the event of a fall, injury, or other medical situations.
• Adapted Telephones are programmed with important numbers of family and friends to eliminate the pressure of remembering them for those with dementia. Some phones even give the option of programming a picture of a loved one to correspond with their telephone numbers.
• Automated pill dispensers are relatively inexpensive and can be easily programmed to make a signal when it’s time to take medication. This can be helpful especially as the disease progresses and memory gets worse.
• A dementia-friendly music player is another device to consider especially if your loved one enjoys listening to music. Many studies have shown that listening to calming music can have a positive effect on dementia patients. Some speakers can be programmed to play certain songs for a specified amount of time. The large buttons make it easy to control the volume.
Technology and Dementia: iPad Apps for Alzheimer’s Patients
In addition to assistive technology devices, the iPad has shown to help those diagnosed with dementia improve their cognitive and communication skills. Because of its user-friendly and lightweight design, the iPad can be used easily by dementia patients. Here are some apps that were created specifically for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Labyrinth 2 HD– This app is designed to help those with dementia strengthen their cognitive skills by working to navigate mazes, which can be made more or less challenging by changing the level.
MindMate– Designed specifically to strengthen the mind, this app provides games and mental exercises that help enhance problem-solving skills, speed, memory, and attention. There are also exercise and nutrition lessons available on the platform.
Peak-Brain Training– Developed by neuroscientists, this app offers over 40 games designed to challenge cognitive skills while also encouraging creativity and mental agility. In addition to a wide variety of games, the app also provides a personal trainer for the brain called, “Coach.” Coach tracks progress and also provides suggestions for improvement.
Finding Additional Support at Maplewood Senior Living
At Maplewood Senior Living, we know how important it is to exercise the brain, especially for those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. That’s why we provide residents the opportunity to learn new iPad games and programs to help improve and maintain their cognitive skills. If you’re interested in learning more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please feel free to contact us.