Assistive technology that is highly useful in aged care can be useless for people with dementia because often it’s beyond their cognitive and technical capabilities, or it can be confusing and disorientating.

Maree McCabe

Off-the shelf technology like apps and devices like tablets can be hard to navigate, and many common augmented reality applications are highly technical, heavy to wear and not fit for purpose for people with dementia.

But individually tailored assistive technology has positive benefits for the quality of life of people with dementia and their families, a study by Dementia Australia shows.

“Dementia Australia’s study discovered that there are benefits to asking what problems or frustrations a person living with dementia is experiencing and then exploring how technology can be customised to address these concerns,” CEO Maree McCabe McCabe said.

Dementia Australia undertook the two year study into how technology can be customised to support people living with dementia between 2017-19.

It flagged the results at an International Alzheimer’s conference last year and the results are now being prepared for publication.

Making technology dementia-friendly

Ms McCabe says off-the-shelf technology like apps, smart home devices and augmented reality headsets are often inappropriate for people living with dementia.

Researchers looked at ways of modifying existing technology to make it more user-friendly and relevant for people living with dementia and their carers.

Almost 30 people living with dementia or mild cognitive impairment living in regional Victoria participated in the study.

Participants were questioned about their frustrations and ideas they had for improving their quality of life.

They were then given personalised technology to help address their challenges and to help them achieve their goals.

The study found that using customised technology was associated with improvement in depression, wellbeing, self-sufficiency and quality of life, and that ther technology also had a positive impact on the wellbeing of families and the family member’s perception of the relationship with the person with dementia.

Participant feedback was also positive from both people with dementia and family members.

“It has opened up the possibilities and it’s done more than that – it’s enabled those possibilities to occur,” one participant said.

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