Dementia is a condition where a person’s cognition deteriorates, causing changes in thinking, memory, orientation, comprehension and other cognitive areas. These changes affect an individual’s daily functions. As portrayed in the movie, ‘Still Alice’ – Alice, the main character diagnosed with dementia, fights against the effects of this condition by keeping lists on her handphone to recap important questions at the start of her day to fight against her declining cognition. Alice also eventually forgets where the bathroom is at home, and ends up wetting herself. As dementia progresses, adaptations may be required to be implemented in the home environment to help someone with dementia cope with the gradual cognitive decline and increased level of assistance. With technological advancements, there are many useful inventions which can help in the care of our loved ones with dementia.
What is assistive technology and how can it help?
Assistive technology refers to devices or systems that help to maintain or improve a person’s ability to do things in everyday life. They can help with improving safety and monitoring health vitals as well. This can range from items like electronic pill boxes to ‘smart home’ systems. An example of assistive technology would be on your smartphone or tablet, where apps have been developed for people with dementia. Existing apps can even be used in creative manners for helping individuals with dementia, such as modifying task reminders or notes applications in a smartphone.
A hallmark of dementia is memory problems, which can gradually worsen as the condition progresses. Other symptoms which come on as an effect of dementia include problems with planning and sequencing activities (e.g. wearing shoes), communicating with others, getting around physically, and being aware of keeping safe inside and outside the home. Forgetfulness will affect someone’s daily living and safety, in instances such as forgetting to turn off the fire while cooking, or not remembering where the light switch is to turn on the lights in a dark room. Moreover, this decreases the person’s independence and confidence in daily living tasks, which can affect self-esteem and well-being.
Assistive technology can help in enabling automation around the home, so the person with dementia can get around safely, and give their caregivers or loved ones some relief. This also helps to give a sense of independence to the person with dementia as they can get around by themselves. Some things assistive technology can do are:
- Send notifications to a caregiver if their loved one has wandered outside during a specific time of the day, or if they have fallen
- Provide security surveillance by checking on them through cameras placed around the house
- Provide reminders about important events like medical appointments
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Different forms of assistive technology
There are different types of assistive technology available to help with dementia care. Do remember to factor in these costs in your budget to provide for your loved one, as costs can add up in providing care for someone with dementia as the condition progresses.
Simple pill boxes
Pill boxes with separate compartments for days of the week, and times of the day, can help a person with dementia remember when to take medication. These are easily available and can be found in local pharmacies.
Price: Starting from SGD$5.40
Where to find them: Guardian, Watsons
Automatic pill dispenser
Alternatively, you could use an automatic pill dispenser, though this is more costly. Automatic pill dispenser boxes are pre-filled with medicine and locked. When the time comes to take medication, the dispenser will sound an alarm, and the right compartment will open to dispense the medicine. This allows the person with dementia to take the correct pill and prevents the instance of forgetting to take medication. Some boxes can be set for the alarm to continue ringing until the pills are removed, or to send alerts to friends and family if the medication was not taken, or if the device has an issue (e.g. battery is running low, or medication needs refilling).
Price: Starting from SGD$163.26
Where to find them: Qoo10.sg, Amazon
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Safety and sensor technology
Safety and sensor technology can be for specific purposes in parts of the home, such as for kitchen appliances, or for general purposes, such as in getting around.
For specific purposes
Can be installed in parts of the home where there is water supply. This helps to prevent instances of taps or shower hoses not being turned off. The sensor will sound an alarm, informing others that there is a water leakage, and to guide individuals to the correct area to stop the water source from running.
Where to find it: https://sea.omega.com/sg/pptst/LA-13.html
An emergency call button
This can be placed in various parts of the home as well, if there is an elevated risk of having a fall or injuries there. Such areas include the bathroom, or the kitchen, where the floor may be more slippery. Some of these devices now come with applications which the caregiver can download. Even if someone falls and the caregiver is not at home, they can be notified of the incident, which can give more peace of mind when going out and leaving the person with dementia at home.
Price: starting from SGD$21.90
Where to find it: Shopee, OMG Solutions
Digital smart door locks
This can help persons with dementia to enter and exit their homes without needing their keys. Some digital door locks come equipped with a biometric sensor, so a fingerprint can be used to enter instead of keying in a password. This may be appropriate for persons with dementia who may forget the key code for the door as well.
Price: starting from SGD $499
Where to find it: Hdoor.sg
For general purposes
Can be installed around the home. They can help to monitor the home environment and happenings, and look out for any potential dangers. Security cameras can also be connected to applications, so that a caregiver may be able to look out for a loved one even when they may not be near the vicinity.
Price: starting from SGD$39.80
Where to find it: SG CCTV
Smart lighting technology
Can be often found in shopping malls, where lights are connected to a sensor, which cause them to automatically light up when movement is detected. Such lighting can be installed at home as well, which can help people with dementia as the lights are activated with motion. This means more independence getting about the home as the person with dementia can move about without having to worry about looking for the light switches, especially during night time. Some examples of smart lighting devices would be motion sensor activated night lights.
Price: starting from SGD$25.90
Where to find it: Yeelight.sg
Smart home systems
This link compatible devices to automate or control aspects of the home such as lights, appliances, windows, doors, and locks. Some examples of these are Alexa and Google Nest. These can be helpful with individuals who have dementia, as the system can be configured about the user’s habits and needs, which means that the system potentially can adapt itself to the person with dementia’s life about the home, without them needing to do much in particular. The only thing is to ensure that home appliances are compatible with the smart home system, so that they can be automated.
Price: starting from SGD$77.84 to $129 (excluding other appliances)
Where to find it: Courts, Amazon
GPS tracking devices
GPS tracking devices are also available, for caregivers to monitor the person with dementia’s movements and whereabouts, such as if they fall or go missing. This way, the caregiver or family member is still able to track down the location of the individual and look for them if necessary. These are also simple to use, as all it requires is for the person with dementia to wear and keep the device on their body at all times.
Where to find it: GPS tracker keychain
Time keeping devices
Digital calendar day clocks
These are clocks which show the day, date, and time clearly for people with dementia. They are easy to set up, and can help with quick and easy timekeeping. Some clocks come with notifications which indicate whether it is morning or evening, which are useful for differentiating the start and end of the day. There are also non-digital versions in the market as well.
Price: starting from SGD$43
Where to find it: Shopee
Clock and calendar applications
Can be downloaded to the phone and configured for an individual’s specific needs. For instance, alarms can be set to provide event reminders, and an alarm could be modified to include sound, vibration or flashing lights. The layout of the calendar and clock can be customised for the individual’s needs as well; for example a bigger font can be used to help individuals who may not be able to see well.
Some examples of these applications would include Apple Calendar, Google Calendar, or any other in-built calendar application. There are other Android applications and Apple applications which may be found in the app store.
HealthHub can help to send notifications to the person with dementia to remind them about upcoming appointments as well. Notifications must be enabled in the settings of the application.
Price: starting from SGD$0 (free)
Where to find it: HealthHub, Google Play Store, Apple Store
These are getting increasingly common nowadays, and these devices, while useful in our daily lives, can be helpful for people with dementia as well. Smartwatches can help to send notifications and alarms for appointments, keep track of time, and act as a payment mode if one is outside and has forgotten their wallet or ez-link card to pay transport fares.
Moreover, some smartwatches come equipped with other safety functions as well. The Apple watch can help with fall detections, and will sound an alarm when someone falls, if the function has been activated. Garmin and Fitbit watches come with GPS tracking systems, so a caregiver can track the location of the person with dementia if they wander off and are not anywhere to be found.
Price: starting from SGD$188 onwards (taking FitBit Charge 4 as a smartwatch with notifications and GPS function)
Where to find it: Courts
Other types of installations or technology
Driverless vehicles, therapeutic and assistive service robots are some of the options used in other countries for dementia care as well, however these are not widely available in Singapore yet.
Choosing the right device and technology for your loved one with dementia
With so many devices and technologies mentioned which can be used to help the care of someone with dementia, it is definitely worth thinking about which technology would be most beneficial for your loved one with dementia, or even for you as a person involved in his or her care.
Some factors to consider would be ease of use, costs, and whether or not the device or technology comes with an application, so the caregiver has some control and visibility of the person’s activities as well.
Other times, home automation or technologies may not be suitable for the person with dementia, and home help or a caregiver may be more suitable. Homage has various options for caregivers, on a full-time or part-time basis.
Our trained care professionals are able to provide companionship, nursing care, night caregiving, home therapy and more, to keep your loved ones active and engaged.
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- DementiaCareCentral.com. (2020, June 29). Guide to Assistive Technology, Aids & Apps for Persons with Dementia & Caregivers. Dementia Care. https://www.dementiacarecentral.com/caregiverinfo/technology/
- Dementia Singapore. (2021, March 16). Technology To Help With Dementia Care. Dementia Singapore. https://dementia.org.sg/2020/04/09/technology-dementia-care/
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- Shu, S., & Woo, B. K. (2021). Use of technology and social media in dementia care: Current and future directions. World journal of psychiatry, 11(4), 109–123. https://doi.org/10.5498/wjp.v11.i4.109