Virtual assistants such as Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa are now part of many people’s everyday life (they turn on their music for them, answer their questions and are an ever present companion in their lives). However, there is burgeoning research and theory that suggests that they may be useful in helping build an appropriate care package for those with dementia.
So, let’s explore the evidence. Here are some ways in which these technologies may come in handy for caregiving and self-care alike.
Technology for Dementia is an organisation that has been set up to test and explore how technology, in particular virtual assistants, can be used to help care for those with dementia. One way is by giving easy access to information that may be difficult to recall for those with dementia. For example, they draw attention to how there are certain useful commands such as “Ok Google what day is it?” (the device will tell the user this information) and “Ok Google remember…– (the machine will then remember a fact of the person’s choosing). Personal information such as the names of loved ones and their addresses will help Dementia patients keep hold of their memories, and VAs can also help in more day to day areas, such as remembering when to take medication.This will help your loved one to access information that they may have forgotten, and may help to alleviate some of the frustration.
Users of these devices need to have some personal information kept by the virtual assistant, so they will need to consent. So, if you are interested in using a VA with a loved one ro family member, then you may need to set up a meeting with care professionals, particularly if they are not seen to be capable of making certain decisions.
Jane Byrne from FirstCare points out that one of the biggest issues in healthcare is dementia. “Rising numbers of cases, couples with demographic changes such as a rapidly ageing population, are making dementia one of the major health problems of our times.
Helps those with dementia have fun!
Researchers at University College London have begun to research the ways in which virtual assistants can be used when caring for those with dementia. Though academic research in this area is in its infancy, a pilot study that they have conducted shows that the respondents genuinely appreciated the way in which the device helped them engage in activities that they perhaps had thought were now out of their reach. They cited things such as playing music and audiobooks, and most of those involved in the research thought these things were more important than the perhaps more practical things cited above.
It could help them to call for help
You can use a virtual assistant to make phone calls, or to raise an alarm if something has gone wrong. This will be particularly useful if the individual with dementia is living independently, which is very common, particularly in the early stages of the condition. This functionality will surely put loved ones’ and families’ minds at rest.
A host of other things!
As the Alzheimer’s Society points out, new functions are always being added. However, at present they could use a virtual assistant for the following reasons;
- Reminders of birthdays and other important events
- Turning over the channel on the television
- Making purchases
- Making phone calls
- Asking general questions (as a note, if one asks the same question over and over again a VA will not get impatient or frustrated)
- Freeing up family members or carers from doing the simple tasks that the VA can manage on its own.
Many other technologies might be used to help out Dementia patients and their caregivers alike, so don’t under estimate the benefits of some of the marvelous technology we have at our disposal. On the whole, technology is making improving lives in healthcare, despite the concerns that some may have, and virtual assistants are definitely at the forefront of this.
This post has been sponsored by Holly Clark
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