As I mentioned in the earlier post, caregiving impacts many families in different ways.  Almost 1/3rd of the US adult population will be providing some level of care to another adult at some time.  New tools and resources are being created all the time to aid in that process.  The following is a synopsis of some of those tools for us to use when helping a loved one with dementia.

Assistive Tech Tools for 3 Stages of Dementia

People can continue to live with dementia for years, and they go through different stages of the disease. The impacted individual and their caregivers can evaluate the categories of technology that are most useful at each of the three stages of dementia described below.

The Early Stage of Dementia

In the early stages, the parent(s) and their family will worry. Even after a diagnosis, they’ll continue to wonder whether it really is dementia and look for another test they on their own, such as a Dementia Self-Assessment. There might also be a concern with the day-to-day activities of daily living (ADLs), defined as things like ability to transfer from bed, get to the bathroom or feed oneself. These ADLs can be especially important for a loved one who lives alone. Perhaps there is an unrelated health issue, and they’re concerned about whether he/she is taking medications correctly or making it to medical appointments. Issues such as these can be addressed with calendar or reminder technologies.

If their loved one lives with them, they may want to acquire motion sensors or a smart doorbell to know when their loved one is out of bed or near the door.

If the family member is still driving, a smart phone app for turn-by-turn directions as well as a “wearable” to help a loved one find his/her way.

Finally, caregivers and family members may want to focus on maintaining their loved one’s quality of life at home, introducing smart speakers to play music at scheduled times, or even storytelling technology to help a loved one talk about themselves and their lives, which can be a comfort. The following table provided by Hartford Funds highlights tech categories and examples of possible solutions.  The examples have links which can take you to websites describing their uses and features. They are only examples and don’t represent endorsements by Provider Group.

 

Needs of the Early stage Tech Categories Examples
Activities of daily living Motion sensors
Medication reminders
Smart doorbells
Smart thermostats
GreatCall Lively Home
MedMinder, PillPack
Ring
Nest
At home Smart Speakers
Smartphone assistants
Memory/Stories
Caregiving and Family Support
Amazon Echo, Dot
Google Assistant, Siri, Alexa
MemoryWell
LifePodSharetheCare, LotsaHelpingHands
Wandering/driving GPS Tracking
Fall detection
Driving
Philips GoSafe, MobileHelp
Philips Auto Alert, FallCall (Apple Watch)
Android Auto, Apple CarPlay

 

The Middle Stage of Dementia (all above plus the following):

When dementia progresses to the point where your family is concerned about a loved one getting lost, it may be time for them to discuss whether or not they should be driving and encourage walking or alternative transportation options, if it’s an option. The loved one’s loss of independence is difficult to confront, but for safety, it’s critical.

 

At that point, a wearable with location tracking may help keep their loved one safe and reduce worry about getting lost near their home. Home safety needs to be addressed as well. Tools such as an automatic stove shutoff and a home alarm system with water detection for faucets that may be left running can help reduce risks.

From a health standpoint, it may make sense to have a medication reminder/dispensing system that both alerts about a dosage and only alerts/releases the appropriate medication at the right time.

 

Needs of the Middle stage Tech Categories Examples
Care coordination Private health websites, managing medications, Geriatric Case Managers AgingLifeCare

CaringBridge, CareZone

Wander management Location tracking tools iTraq, GPS Smart Sole
Mental stimulation Music Therapy, Personalized content for Dementia SingFit, iN2L Focus Tablet
Medication management Pre-loaded dosages released at specific times Philips Medication Dispensing, MedMinder Jon
Home safety When loved one is alone in their home ADT Water Alarm, Cookstop

 

The Advanced Stage of Dementia:

In the more advanced stages of dementia, a loved one might need an in-home care worker while you are out or at work. Or it may be necessary to hire a round-the-clock caregiver to help the loved one with meals, showers, dressing and other routines. Installing a remote camera may help provide peace of mind. You can also consider other tools that help comfort and relax the loved one. An adult day center that can provide a full day of activities and interactions for those with dementia is also a resource.

Needs of the Advanced stage Tech Categories Examples
In-home care services Home care workers for partial day or full day Home Instead, RightAtHome, ComfortKeepers
Remote monitoring Cameras, sensors Best home security seniors
Engaging seniors Robotic cats, dogs Ageless Innovations
Bed/chair exit tools Alerts when a person gets up Safe Wandering
Adult day centers Centers trained in dementia care About Adult Day Centers
Memory care Specialized units for those with dementia About Memory Care

 

 Should Mom or Dad Move to an Assisted Living or a Nursing Home?

For most people, assisted living is not needed in the early stages of dementia. And it may be just too expensive. Assisted Living has a median cost of $48,000 per year nationwide, per person, and a recent survey by Genworth found that the nursing home average is more than $90K. With the right in-home services, assisted living may be deferred or avoided.

To summarize, if it is suspected that your family member or parent has dementia, it is recommended a doctor make that determination. Self-assessments can also help with the decision to see a doctor. Second, it will be challenging for a caregiver to go through this experience alone. It is suggested by many experts that caregivers find a dementia caregiver’s support group and consider working with a geriatric care manager. Third, check out the resources mentioned above to see if any tech tools can fill-in some caregiving gaps or provide support. With these recommendations and ideas, I hope families and caregivers can help a loved one through the various stages of dementia.