What is Assistive Technology?

timerAssistive Technology is a term that refers to products or gadgets that people use to make their lives easier, such as a TV remote control, glasses or an alarm clock. This term can be used to describe any piece of technology that enables someone to complete their daily tasks, maintain their independence, help manage risks at home and reduce stress for carers.

Assistive Technologies (AT) can be any device that makes it easier to perform activities of daily living they can be simple or complex. There are two forms of AT, Stand Alone devices and Telecare products.

Stand Alone Devices

dispenser
Stand Alone devices can be bought off the shelf. They can be something simple like a clock or something more complicated like an automatic pill dispenser that will send a text to a carer if medication is not taken.

These products are not linked up to a monitoring centre.

Telecare Devices

sensor
Telecare devices can only be used as part of the Telecare system. There are various companies providing Telecare in Ireland .They charge a fee for providing a base unit and sensors and a monthly monitoring fee. Telecare sensors are placed around the home depending on each individuals needs. When a sensor is triggered it sends a signal to the base unit (which is connected to a landline or mobile telephone) which in turn goes to the monitoring centre or a carer. The monitoring centre will then follow the procedure agreed with the family. For example if someone wearing a falls sensor, falls to the ground and doesn’t get up this will activate the monitoring centre to contact the person at home to check they are ok, and or, telephone the nominated contacts.

Benefits of Assistive Technology

There are many benefits of assistive technology. For example, they can:

  • Orientate the person on time, day and date
  • Assist a person when trying to use a phone
  • Switch on/ off lights especially when up at night
  • Switch off electrical and gas appliances
  • Sensors for smoke, heat and carbon monoxide
  • Alert a carer or monitoring centre if assistance required
  • Falls alert/ safety at night
  • Medication reminders
  • GPS technology to assist in locating

Limitations of Assistive Technology

Assistive Technology, though useful, does have limitations:

  • “One size does not fit all”,
  • People have different needs, abilities, preferences and backgrounds so some people may have difficulty embracing Assistive Technology
  • Assistive Technology can create a false sense of security – people can unplug items, switch things off
  • Recorded messages and voices can be distressing for some people
  • Alerts must be responded to
  • Assistive Technology is never a replacement for human support and interaction.

Ethical Use of Assistive Technology

There is a wide range of technology devices and services that may be of benefit to people with dementia and those who care for them. It is important to think carefully about the pros and cons of any potential solution whether it be technological or otherwise.e.g.

How does it affect the privacy or freedom of the person?
Is the person involved in the consent process?
Is it being considered as an option to cut back on carer hours and therefore “more economical?”
Does it disempower the person by fear or misunderstanding?
Does it only consider the risk and difficulties of the carer rather than the strengths of the person with dementia?

For more information about ethical issues of telecare please look at the web-site below. This site also includes a range of case-studies around how assistive technology can be used effectively.

www.livingmadeeasy.org.uk

In this section, we provide information about some Assistive Technology products that are available. Living Well with Dementia does not endorse any specific product. We would like to acknowledge the support of 5 Steps to Living Well with Dementia in South Tipperary who provided us with much of the content. southtipperarydementia.

We would like to acknowledge the support of 5 Steps to Living Well with Dementia in South Tipperary who provided us with much of the content. www.southtipperarydementia.ie

Useful Assistive Websites

www.memorytechnologylibrary.co.uk
This site features excellent short YouTube films made by carers and staff on the following:

  • The day clock
  • Day / night orientation clock
  • Talking photo album
  • Talking tile
  • Talking card

www.assistireland.ie

    This website is useful for more general searches of aids for older people but does include some assistive technology products, and is good for finding Irish retailers of specific products.

www.southtipperarydementia.ie
See Memory Technology Library pages for:

  • Full catalogue of products for loan and demo
  • Prices and retailers of products
  • Web site downloads
  • Events
  • Useful links

Service users feedback on loaned devices

atdementia.org.uk

  • This site has a comprehensive list of all assistive technologies for people with dementia and provides retailer details. It is well organised and clearly explains stand alone AT and
    Telecare options.

deafhear.ie

  • Have a resource area for assistive technology with advice and items to view and try.

ncbi.ie/shop

  • Has a shop with daily living aids for people with visual impairments which may be suitable for a person with dementia.

dementia.stir.ac.uk/design/good-practice-guidelines

  • The Dementia Services Centre Stirling has a resource section guidelines covering a range of areas including lighting, colour, fixtures and fittings, rooms in the home and outdoor spaces.