BIME Projects - Dementia care
BIME has been working alongside various partners for some years to promote and establish the potential of using new technology in the field of dementia care. Our original project was the Gloucester Smart House, a collaborative project with Dementia Voice and Housing 21. This was followed by some support from the European Union to provide a series of stand alone items of technology for people with dementia as part of the ENABLE project. This project evaluated the impact of support technology on people with dementia and their carers. More recently BIME is a partner in the INDEPENDENT project. This project involves the development of assistive technology to specifically improve the quality of life for people with dementia. BIME has also done some further work on developing Stand Alone technology. Some of BIME's key papers published in the field of dementia care are also listed below.
We have been collaborating for severval years with Dementia Voice and Housing 21 to develop technology for use in a smart house for people with dementia. The collaboration is a user-led design exercise involving many people with dementia and their carers in order to design and develop smart home technologies that could assist with various problems that had been identified from surveys with personal carers. A lot of work has been completed evaluating individual components of the smart home, such as automatic taps, cooker monitors,etc and these were originally demonstrated at the Gloucester Smart House. Complete installations are now being evaluated intially in Deptford in London, with excellent results. This work is described in detail in many of the BIME's published papers.
With enabling smart technology the house itself reacts to any issues that arise, and rarely needs to call for outside assistance. It does this through automatic equipment, and verbal prompts and reminders. In this way enabling smart technology is a big advance on more basic telecare. It can react immediately to any problems that arise, is much more empowering to the user and enables them to maintain more control over their life.
The Deptford flat supported a man with advanced dementia (MMSE 10) and enabled him to continue to be independent for over a year. The technology was key to improving his sleep from 3 to 6 hours, reduced night time wandering and enabled him to be continent.
The ENABLE project involved a European-based consortium of groups working in the field of dementia care and evaluated the impact of stand-alone assistive technology. Evaluations were carried out in Norway, Ireland, Finland, Lithuania as well as the U.K. BIME developed some of the assistive technology included in the evaluations.
The Independent project was a collaborative project between BIME, the Universities of Liverpool and Sheffield, together with links to users through Dementia Voice and Community Care in Northampton. The project ran between 2003 and early 2007 and specifically looked at how technology could be used to improve the quality of life for people with dementia. The project involved a large amount of survey work with people with dementia and their personal and professional carers. This work aimed to try and establish issues that were important to people with dementia as far as quality of life was concerned. Eight categories were identified; identity and personal history, enabling relationships, encouraging social engagement, conversation prompting, music, supporting activity sequences, access to nature, and creative activities. A description of almost 70 possible assistive technology devices was drawn up by project members based on these categories. They were reduced by the consortium members to four projects for design and development work at BIME. Details of these are provided below, and more information is available in some of the papers listed here.
Simple Music Player
People with dementia often have problems operating music playing devices, such as CD players. This project aims to develop a music player that is suitable for them. The current design is based on an MP3 player with a reduced number of controls, which operate in an intuitive manor. Opening and closing the lid of the music player starts and stops the music and a large touch sensor allows the user to change tracks. The volume control and the memory card, which stores the music, are located in a special carer control compartment to ensure security of the settings. Currently the design is being evaluated before production development begins
Window on the world
Two systems were developed to evaluate whether using video cameras around or within a user's home could enhance engagement with the family and the wider community. The first system used readily available wireless cameras to display local scenes on a dedicated LCD display (the 'window'). This proved to be popular with users. The second system developed used web cams and PCs located both in the home of the user and a relative to give an impression of visiting each other. Small scale tests of the system where carried out to explore how people with dementia interacted with the system and the privacy issues involved.
The proposed device was to replay the last few seconds of a user's speech so that if the user forgot their train of thought they had a mechanism to regain it. Research, including analysing conversations with people with dementia, indicated that this approach was not as useful as thought, but indicated the need for technology to provide structure and topics for conversation.
The proposed device breaks simple tasks into their stages, and prompts the user to carry out each one in turn. Some simple exploratory work was undertaken to see how effective such techniques would be for people with dementia. The work concluded with recommendations for the most effective way to present instructions for this type of device. Further work is needed to assess different techniques for detecting when one stage of the task has been completed and the next needs to be cued.
Several stand-alone devices have been developed, both as a result of the studies described above, and as separate projects. Some of these are available as not for profit products and are described in the "Products" pages of this web-site. Others still undergoing development are described below.
The Locator is a system that enables lost objects to be found within a domestic environment. It uses a small panel which illustrates objects that might have been mislaid or actively hidden, such as purses, keys etc. Each of these objects has a small tag attached to them and when the picture of the lost object is pressed on the panel the appropriate tag will bleep to enable the object to be found. When the lost object is picked up the bleep automatically stops. BIME is seeking financial support to enable the production development of the Locator.
A lot of work has been completed investigating cooker monitors for use by people with dementia. All this experience is being used to develop a prototype stand alone system that can support both electric and gas cooker usage. A working prototype is being developed of a modular system that can be simply configured according to the level of ability and circumstances of the user. The core device uses sensors to detect potentially hazardous situations, and this information is then used to switch off the cooker. Additional features include the possibility of alerting the user or a carer, and an external alert.
Simplified TV Remote Control
BIME has been developing a prototype simplified TV remote control which can be used with a wide range of televisions. The buttons would allow the TV to be turned on and off and select a small range of channels.
Mains appliance monitor
Our smart home evaluations highlighted the need for a sensor to monitor the usage of mains appliances such as the TV or an electric kettle. Such monitoring provides extra insight into the lifestyle of the user, and could further enable the smart house to provide appropriate support. A monitor is currently under development.
A further issue highlighted by the smart home evaluations, and identified by professional carers, is a means for knowing when a user has used the toilet. Such a device would have much benefit both for a smart home and as a stand-alone device for use in care homes. Design work is underway.
This ETAC-funded project, in collaboration with a psychologist from the University of St Andrew's, aims to investigate the best ways of providing prompting to people with dementia. Dementia can cause people to lose their train of thought while carrying out a task, such as making a meal, and are often prompted by a carer to help them continue. Some prompting technology already exists, but there are currently no guidelines about which types of prompting (verbal, written) are the most successful. BIME is involved both in the initial research and in providing prototype prompting equipment for this study.