Using technology to support caregivers of older people with dementia

Technology can be used to support the caregivers of people living with dementia, however, developers and designers need to take caregiver needs into consideration.
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Janet Fast, University of Alberta

In June, the government of Canada released its long-awaited Dementia Strategy for Canada: Together We Aspire.

As a family caregiving researcher for more than two decades and a former family caregiver to my father, who had dementia, the strategy was welcome news. But my own research and personal experience suggest that we’re falling short of the aspiration to be “a Canada in which all people living with dementia and caregivers are valued and supported.”

I agree, perhaps selfishly, that research and innovation are essential for effective implementation of the dementia strategy. AGE-WELL NCE, Canada’s technology and aging network, engages older people, caregivers, product developers and designers in the development of technologies that can make their lives better.

I co-lead the AGE-WELL research project that is responsible for adding to what we already know about caregivers’ needs, developing new technologies to meet those needs and advocating for new policies and practices that will reduce the negative consequences of care. My team’s work shows clearly that caregiving takes a toll on the nearly half million Canadians caring for a family member or friend with dementia. Other caregivers also pay a price: poorer physical and mental health, social isolation and loneliness, financial hardship and insecurity. But that price is steeper when caring for someone with dementia.

Caring time and labour

Caregiving is time-consuming for all caregivers, averaging nine-and-a-half hours per week. It is more time-intensive for dementia caregivers, who provide more than 13 hours per week on average. Collectively, those half million dementia caregivers spent 342 million hours on care tasks in 2012, the equivalent of more than 171,000 full-time employees.

Care also is a different experience for men and women and these differences are more pronounced among dementia caregivers than others. Women dementia caregivers are more likely than men to experience negative health, social, employment and financial outcomes.

Layer on persistent gender wage discrimination and ineffective financial compensation strategies and it’s little wonder that a quarter of female dementia carers experienced care-related financial hardship. These caregivers often modify spending or defer savings to cover care-related expenses. This was a problem for only one in seven of their male counterparts.

Technological support

Existing technologies that can make caregivers’ jobs easier include GPS-enabled tracking and monitoring systems, smartphone and tablet applications, emergency alert systems, tele-health services, networking platforms and many others. But technology adoption and retention is poor, with 70 to 90 per cent of innovations failing.

An understanding caregivers’ needs can help technology developers in the design of apps and products that meet those needs.
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Sometimes this is because available technologies don’t meet caregiver needs very well. Many product designers and developers create the technology for the sake of it, without knowing whether caregivers want it or are prepared to use it. As a result, technology can have both negative and positive impacts on caregivers.

Traditional problem‐focused approaches to technology design can limit discussions to performing caregiving tasks, and fail to capture the complexity of “being in care relationships.” Product developers and designers need to understand caregivers’ complicated lives and unique needs if they’re to develop successful strategies for developing, promoting and delivering technologies to support family caregivers effectively.

Disrupting how we develop technologies by integrating caregivers into design practice so that it’s their experiences and expertise that drive the process is more likely to lead to products and services that solve their real-life problems, improve their well-being and, ultimately, succeed in the marketplace.

Supporting caregivers

While there are technologies and services that can help support caregivers, it’s usually up to caregivers to find them. Navigating a fragmented system of health and social supports is challenging, time-consuming, frustrating and often futile.

One of our team’s projects is addressing this challenge by applying a new type of artificial intelligence called cognitive computing. We have created an online tool that connects family caregivers to products that will support them and their family member or friend with dementia.

It will be far more specific and powerful than the usual search engines, allowing family carers to describe in plain language the problem they want to solve.

CARE-RATE uses cognitive computing to support caregivers looking for information and support.

A second project uses a co-creation process that taps caregivers’ experiences to develop a web portal that provides ongoing follow-up and training in the use of mobility aids such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs or scooters, when and where they need it.

A third project is asking caregivers to tell [researchers] about their preferences and priorities for technological solutions to some of their biggest challenges.

As our population grows older, disability rates increase and pressure on our health and continuing care sectors also grows. We have to understand, recognize and support family caregivers and their valuable work if we’re to meet the challenge.

Of course, technology alone is not enough to sustain the largely unpaid work of family caregivers. According to University of Birmingham social policy professor Paul Burstow, “getting the balance right between ‘tech’ and ‘touch’ is vital.”

From my perspective:

“We need to recognize the value of family caregivers’ work and their right to ‘have a life[’]; ensure that there are adequate, accessible and affordable services for care receivers and caregivers; organize workplaces and labour policy so that caregivers can keep earning a living alongside their care work as long as possible; and when caregiving still results in financial hardship for some, we need to be ready with anti-poverty measures.”

[ Expertise in your inbox. Sign up for The Conversation’s newsletter and get a digest of academic takes on today’s news, every day. ]The Conversation

Janet Fast, Professor and Co-Director, Research on Aging, Policies and Practice, University of Alberta

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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What good dementia design looks like – A case study on Dementia Training Australia’s work with Scalabrini Village

DTA and Scalabrini Village case study profiled at Alzheimer’s International Conference in Chicago from Dementia Training Australia on Vimeo.

 

A case study on Dementia Training Australia’s work with Scalabrini Village is featured in the program Every Three Seconds, a collaboration between ADI and ITN Productions which highlights the fact that someone in the world is diagnosed with dementia every three seconds.

Source: https://www.dta.com.au/case-studies-dementia-training-australia/

App by Hong Kong Centre for Positive Ageing

Jockey Club Centre for Positive Ageing Hong Kong has created an app in Mandarin to help people understand dementia at the click of a button. iTunes Website: Click here to go to page this is also available on Google play Click here to go to page. Check out the video below to find out more.

 

描述

腦退化症資訊、健腦遊戲、照顧貼士,全部盡在「腦退化一按知」!

知識寶庫
由甚麼是腦退化症(Dementia)、治療方法、照顧技巧,到處理情緒及行為徵狀的貼士,全都收錄在知識寶庫中,讓你一機在手,有如錦囊隨身。

健腦遊戲
本程式內的遊戲有趣又不限時,你可以和家人輕輕鬆鬆地一起玩,一邊健腦,一邊歡度快樂時光。

位置回報
你可以在家人的手機上安裝此程式,需要時透過電郵得知他/她的位置,讓你有需要時更容易找到他/她。

我的位置
你的家人可以透過此程式找到自己的位置,方便他/她在社區內生活。

一鍵通話
你的家人可以透過此程式輕鬆簡單地聯絡你或其他家人,不用再另外從通訊錄尋找。

想知道更多腦退化症的相關資訊及照顧技巧,請瀏覽賽馬會耆智園網站http://www.jccpa.org.hk 及耆智同行網站http://www.adcarer.com.

jc

Finally! A decent looking watch that has a GPS tracker, fall detection and medical alert

Finally, a decent looking watch that has a GPS, fall detection and a medical alert or duress alarm. I stumbled on this website surfing for wearable devices. The Find-Me Tunstall Watch actually combines a “mobile phone, panic alert, fall detector and GPS tracker” all into one wearable decent looking device. This is according to their website. It looks really new at the moment and they don’t seem to have a web store or anything for it. I just hope that it will be publicly available soon and for an international market.

watch.png

 

 

Source: Find-Me Tunstall Watch