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Dementia care technologies -- another look
Technologies to keep those with dementia safe at home. How you ask the question changes the answer. A few weeks ago, I revised my thinking about dementia care technology. The catalyst:An interviewer with the Cincinnati Enquirer called me a few weeks ago for a story she was doing -- and asked me about the technologies that could enable those with Alzheimer's or other dementias to remain safely in their homes. When asked the question that way, I realized that there were quite a few and worth summarizing and referencing more of the vendors in this blog post -- none were in the article to the degree that a previous blog posts on caegiving tech and Azheimer's tracking technologies (2009). So here is an expansion on the Cincinnati Enquirer's published story including statements from the interview/article and expansion:
Memory aids. These include "talking clocks and talking pillboxes, which remind people to take their medications." These are gadgets, of course, not systems (i.e. integrated with response centers and care processes). But for some caregivers and recipients -- they may be just enough. At the low end of price and functionality, search and you will find a talking clock that can be set with 4 medication reminders per day and from the same reseller (MedCenter) integrate it with the pill dispensing unit to create a talking pill box. "As smart phones gain popularity, families can buy apps that remind loved ones when it's time to take their medication or bathe." Smart phone apps for reminders have been around for a while, going back to multi-mode OnTimeRx, RememberItNow and simple reminder apps. These days, there are far too many to count or mention.
Assistive devices that prevent wandering. The article included "sensors that can be placed on walls or on doors to alert caregivers if someone opens a door." So these include simple door sensors, simple bed sensor pads that alert if a person gets out of bed, or Vuance Companion -- an RFID tagged wearable device for home use or 'WanderGuard' style products (typically in facilities) that activate an alarm, shut a door that has been pushed open, and/or alert designated responders -- aka 'departure alert' systems.
Assistive devices that help locate people who are lost. "These systems are small GPS units that can be carried or worn to help caregivers and emergency services personnel track people who may have wandered away from home." Beyond sensors, it may be appropriate to set up a Geofence with something like TrueTracker, SecuraTrac, ActiveCare or AFrameDigital that alerts if a person has traveled outside of a customized zone. "The Alzheimer's Association's Comfort Zone system includes a special unit that can be placed in a vehicle to allow caregivers to track where people with dementia are driving."
Monitoring systems "Some include video monitoring and can track a person's activity within the home and alert a caregiver or 911 if a person has fallen. Sensors can be placed in a bed to show whether a person is getting up at inappropriate times - a sign of wandering or restlessness." Vendor options range from bed sensor pads that can be simple or they integrated into a full monitoring system, such as WellAWARE which promotes its ability to track sleep disturbances and therefore predict problems or Healthsense, which has similar capabilities.
Caution -- this information is for reference and does not imply recommendation or endorsement. For any such product or technology solution, please a) ask for references of satisfied dealers and customers -- especially important for the higher priced options; b) Search the Internet for negative mention or reported problems; c) ask about technical limitations; d) make sure the product can be returned if it does not work as stated and e) contact a local professional or even the Alzheimer's Association, tell them what you are considering. They may just point you toward ComfortZone. And one more thing -- after contacting foot.com, they tell me that there is no predicted date for availability of the so-called GPS shoe, so forget about that.
For those who may have serious doubts about any of these options (or great experiences), please comment.