Dementia is one of our time’s leading epidemics currently affecting over 24 million people globally. This has forced governments to catapult healthcare costs to unsettling proportions. These strikingly huge and rapidly increasing numbers have caused researchers across the globe to find a cure for the ailment and unveil ways of improving the quality of life of patients.
Even though a cure for dementia is yet to be found, these escalated research efforts along with groundbreaking developments in electronic/ mobile healthcare have given rise to an array of self-help technologies for patients.
These tools are aimed at facilitating dementia patients at every stage of their condition and include cognitive screening tests, assistive technology and self-care apps all aimed at allowing patients to reclaim control of their health. Here we take a deeper look into how these technological advancements are providing support for dementia patients and their caretakers worldwide.
Benefits of healthcare technology for dementia patients
Healthcare devices go a long way in supporting dementia patients and caregivers by developing a safer environment for them, engaging them, managing their behaviors non-pharmacologically and reliably monitoring them from a distance. The most noteworthy advantages of such healthcare technologies include:
i. Early diagnosis and intervention:
Dementia is irreversible. However, early intervention and healthy lifestyle choices can be monumental in improving the quality of life of patients. This is because an early intervention enables physicians to identify the cause of the ailment well in time to curtail its progression. However, despite this, we see that most dementia patients hesitate to open up to a healthcare professional about the difficulties that they are facing and often wait as long as seven years before finally seeking medical help.
Also, many times the patient him/herself remains unaware of their symptoms and therefore tries to avoid medical consultation about the matter. To overcome this pattern of delayed diagnosis, many healthcare platforms have conjured up cognitive screening tests that can be used by patients and their caregivers to detect the presence of cognitive ailments early on. The results from these tests can then be used as grounds for gaining a thorough clinical diagnosis.
ii. Functioning and Independence:
By hindering routine activities, dementia considerably raises healthcare costs for patients and places a great deal of burden on their caregivers. However, supportive technologies go a long way in remedying this by enabling patients to independently carry out routine activities and reducing their neuropsychiatric symptoms.
iii. Support for caregivers:
Telehealth devices possess great applicability both at home as well as care facilities and work to significantly reduce stress for both patients and their caregivers.
These devices include video monitoring technologies that allow patients and caregivers to conveniently and instantly reach healthcare professionals for counseling. Moreover, they also include sensors, flood detectors, extreme temperature detectors, CO detectors, medication reminders and bed occupancy detectors.
Safety devices allow for detailed patient security and include surveillance equipment, exit-sensors, injury prevention tools, door security bars, location sensors, touchpad key locks and window sensors among others.
v. Behavioral management:
Studies have found that the use of non-pharmacological treatments such as music, vibrating tubes, fiber optic string lights, aroma diffusers, solar effects projectors and plasma balls are instrumental in the behavioral management of dementia patients.
This is because multi-sensory intervention leads to an improved attention span, impulsiveness and consequently lead to reduced levels of agitation and anxiety in patients.
Technologies that support dementia patients
Here are some technologies that are improving the lives of dementia patients and caregivers the world over:
1. Cognitive screening apps for patients and caretakers:
Cognitive screening tests are brief self-assessment instruments that can be used by patients as well as their caregivers to detect the presence of cognitive ailments. These tests are available in electronic format online and can also be downloaded in the form of an app to help you monitor your own or your loved one’s cognitive performance.
Moreover, apps such as Brain Test go one step further by allowing patients and their caregivers to identify the presence of cognitive dissonance and monitor patient progress over time.
2. Assistive technology:
Dementia causes a decline in the cognitive abilities of patients, eventually inhibiting them from carrying out simple day to day activities. Therefore, it is tremendously encouraging to note that there are several devices and systems available nowadays that allow dementia patients to perform these crucial tasks independently.
These devices include low-tech items such as walking sticks and frames, calendar clocks and bath aids, etc. In addition to high-tech items like telecare and automatic lighting among others.
The term ‘telecare‘ here refers to detectors and sensors such as movement, smoke, flood, gas or fall detectors that generate a signal via a base unit which is connected to a telephone line in use by the caregiver or monitoring service. These devices can also be used to quickly call for medical assistance as and when needed. Primarily categorized based on the need their core purpose; these devices include:
- Supportive technologies that assist individuals in completing tasks.
- Preventive technologies that protect patients from harm and trigger alarms.
- Responsive technologies that allow for thorough risk management.
3. Apps connecting patients to fitness resources:
As people age, they tend to avoid complicated gadgets such as PCs and this hesitation increases yet further in dementia patients who may not find the strength to use such complex devices.
This avoidance of technology increases the risk of isolation among dementia patients and also refrains them from acquiring knowledge that is necessary to manage and improve their condition. However, in such cases, mobile devices like as tablets prove extremely useful as they are more intuitive to use and avoid the complexity of a mouse, keyboard and operating system.
It is for this reason that we see healthcare applications proving extremely effective in connecting dementia patients with the world around them. This allows dementia patients to access online fitness resources across multiple mobile devices. These resources help dementia patients in staying fit but also allow them to record and evaluate their progress over time.
Advancements in the field of dementia research are ongoing at an exponential pace, and therefore we can expect to see more groundbreaking technologies surface in the years to come.