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Dementia Technology

2015 is set to be a ground-breaking year for innovation in Dementia technology. Solutions have been developed to alleviate the common symptoms of dementia including memory loss, decreasing thought speed, difficulty with language, impaired judgement and diminished understanding*. The concept of ‘smart homes’ and motion sensor technology could look to assist the eight hundred thousand patients suffering from dementia in the UK alone. Dementia care is reported to cost the UK over £23 billion per annum, which is more than cancer, stroke and heart disease combined **.

The featured cutting-edge technologies could provide credible alternatives to the rising cost of residential care homes or reduce the need for intensive personal care.  As the patient’s level of dementia progresses the amount of care required intensifies, which can put additional strain on family members. These emerging technologies could prove vital in supporting the independent living of individuals suffering from dementia and provide peace of mind to their families. Here we look at the benefits that sensors, GPS tracking and ‘smart home’ technology can have on the future of dementia care.

Smart Homes

Abilia has developed a network of sensors, situated around the patient’s home that link to a wall-mounted iPad. The iPad is connected to Skype, allowing care-givers and family to keep in touch with the individual. The motion sensors can raise an alarm in potentially dangerous situations such as if a stove is left on for longer than fifteen minutes, or if the patient leaves their room in the middle of the night***.

Also featuring planning tools, the iPad offers a range of solutions to day-to-day household management and spoken reminders about appointments or to take medication at a set time. When trialled in Oslo, the scheme proved very successful; reducing the need for residential care significantly. Residential care in Norway costs on average the equivalent of (£80,378) per individual per year, whereas the Abilia network only costs the equivalent of (£1205), leading to substantial savings***. Since the trial has concluded, over one thousand homes have installed the technology. Further information can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22984876

The Magic Carpet

Scientists from Manchester University have developed a ‘Magic Carpet’ designed to detect and even predict falls in the home. Fitted with plastic optical fibres, the device senses when a patient has stepped onto the carpet and from this intelligence, maps their walking pattern. Electronics at the edge of the carpet relay signals to a computer, which translates these messages into a walking pattern. This pattern can then be monitored for sudden changes in walking behaviour and can detect if the patient has fallen. The ‘Magic Carpet’ can be used by care-givers for off-site monitoring and will alert them should assistance be required***. For more information on the Magic Carpet, have a look at this article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22984876

GPS tracking

In Sussex, police estimate that one in four missing person reports involves a dementia patient***. The county of Sussex has funded a controversial GPS tracking system that can monitor the real-time location of dementia patients. Worn either around the neck, or attached to a key ring, the MindMe device allows friends and family to view online the exact location of the patient***. Additional information about MindMe can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22984876

With a number of additional dementia technology initiatives currently in the testing phases, 2015 appears to be the year of dementia technology advancement. IBM has been developing a network of sensors to measure the temperature, CO2 levels and to monitor a patient’s home for water leaks in association with Bolzano Council***. Researchers in Japan have also created a robotic seal, that can provide comfort to dementia suffers thorough its seal like noises and head and tail movements, replicating that of a domestic pet****.

More information on these technologies can be found here:

*http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/dementia-guide/Pages/about-dementia.aspx

** http://www.openforumevents.co.uk/event/dementia-innovation/

*** http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22984876

**** http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-11459745

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