When you have dementia or have someone living with you who has dementia it can cause practical problems. For example, people sometimes get lost because they don’t recognise their street or their house any more. They put things down and forget where they put them. It is even worse if family and friends live far away. Families sometimes feel that they can’t tell what is going on because it is too far to travel, so it might be safer for the person to move to a care home. This is a shame because sometimes the imagined problems are worse than the reality. There is a great need for practical solutions to those problems.
The good news is that inventors and manufacturers are hard at work producing useful equipment that can help with this. It is often simple and affordable, and some is able to be provided through social work services. As well as community alarm services, where a call centre operator can be alerted through pressing a pendant you can now get door sensors and passive infrared beam emitters that can be fitted to alert carers that the person has gone outside. You can either use this all the time, or temporarily to work out patterns of behaviour and decide when the person with dementia is potentially at risk. Electronic location devices are getting more and more sophisticated and elegant, like a discrete watch, so they are easy to wear, and because many of us have smart mobile phones, you could use the phone in your pocket to find out where a lost person has gone.
A case study on a local council’s website includes a description of how one lady with dementia was helped to stay longer at home. A system called “Just Checking” was used for assessment. This monitors movement within the home, so that staff can understand how best to offer support, and when. As well as a community alarm and smoke detector, this lady was given timed sensors on her front and back door, so that if she opened them at night, someone would be alerted to offer her help if needed. A voice recording of her son was later added, so that if she was about to leave in the night, a familiar voice told her that it was night time, and advised her to stay in.
At the Dementia Services Development Centre we have a standing exhibition of temperature, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, devices to stop sinks and baths overflowing, medication reminders, and fall detectors. There is a really useful websitewww.atdementia.org.uk which gives more information about what is available and you can download our DSDC guide free from our online shop or buy a copy from Amazon for £15.
Some of the solutions to living with dementia are as simple as having a prominent clock, and nothing beats friends and family taking an interest, but it makes sense to use all the technical solutions around, to leave more time for having fun together.