Giving more independence to people with dementia
The Bath Institute of Medical Engineering (BIME) has been exploring technologies which can help support people living with dementia.
A team of researchers at the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering (BIME) has been exploring technologies which can help support the UK's 700,000 people with dementia to live independently for as long as possible. They have developed a Smart Home as part of research into solutions that emulate strategies personal carers use to help support the person they care for. User-led, development work involved people with dementia in design activity, trying out concepts, monitoring and feedback.
The Smart Home has introduced three additional elements into a normal home environment. First, there are a series of sensors to monitor people's behaviour and their interaction with domestic appliances. Second, there are a number of support devices designed to help with aspects such as night-time wandering, cooker, bathroom and kitchen sink usage and automatic lighting. Third, linking all is a wireless system that allows all elements to communicate securely with each other. A computer makes judgements from the sensor data, then provides help through the support equipment.
Taking a carer's approach, a key element has been voice prompts. These remind users if they have left the cooker on or influence behaviour such as discouraging them from going outside in the middle of the night. All concepts were tested standalone in the homes of people with dementia. Once development evolved, full-scale evaluations were carried out in London and Bristol in care homes with support of care staff.
Professor Roger Orpwood, BIME Research Fellow, says of the successful evaluations: “One client in London was quite severely demented but the installation improved his sleep from three and a half hours a night to around six hours. His incontinence was markedly reduced because he could find the toilet at night. His night-time wandering reduced to about half.
“We are keen to engage with manufacturers and make these installations available. We are also looking at providing installations in people's own homes. We are exploring the interpretation of the sensor data so that care professionals and family can find out how a user is getting on.
"Work has been completed to see how these technologies can directly influence quality of life through improving access to music and reducing social isolation. There is no doubt that technology has an important role to play in supporting vulnerable people," adds Professor Opwood. "Its development must involve close and sensitive engagement with users.”
To explore technologies which enable those with dementia live independently for as long as possible and with good quality of life.