Digital technology charity, Tinder Foundation has announced findings on how digital technology can help people with dementia.
The results come from a three year programme with NHS England which aimed to widen digital participation in health.
The study shows that learning how to use technology can help people with dementia recall memories, follow leisure activities, communicate with family and friends, record lucidity and manage day-to-day life. Carers could also access key information and instant support.
The introduction of technology proved particularly effective for people living with dementia, allowing them to realise the beneficial impacts for personal confidence and wellbeing.
The study followed five specialist UK online centres working with dementia patients and carers between January and April this year. It tracked the social, medical and digital barriers to learning and recorded the health and wellbeing outcomes of using digital technology.
The report highlights touchscreen technology and the use of stripped back, simple interfaces as successful ways to help people with memory problems get to grips with technology. Multi-sensory approaches – using familiar smells and visual prompts from the learner’s past – also helped with the retention of information and processes.
People with dementia were drawn to online games and puzzles which helped keep their minds active and also increased their confidence. Skype helped others to keep in touch with family and friends and Youtube helped people follow hobbies and connect with past places.
Even those in the advanced stages of dementia benefited from the sessions and remembered the tablets as a source of enjoyment.
82% of carers and people with dementia reported improved relationships with healthcare professionals. Their their increased knowledge meant they could take a more active part in discussions.
Additional support was needed for both carers and people with dementia to make changes to their routine and to learn new skills.
Some had physical barriers which needed to be overcome, and others were simply resistant to technology.
Helen Milner, chief executive at Tinder Foundation, said: “For people with dementia, learning new skills is too often seen as impossible, impractical or even inadvisable. Our research shows the opposite. Not only can people with dementia learn about the internet, it can empower them to stay active, engaged, and involved in their own care. What’s more, for carers, the internet can be a both a refuge and a great resource for advice and support.
“We believe there is a role for technology in dementia care, and by embedding it in service delivery and support we can help people live better with their symptoms.”
Godfrey, 68, describes having Alzheimer’s Disease as like ‘living life in slow motion’. He was depressed after his diagnosis, and shut himself away. One day, local UK online centre Age UK South Tyneside visited his care home, and were showing some YouTube videos of Frank Sinatra. He went over to see what was happening.
Gradually Godfrey learned how to use a tablet. He needed a lot of help – a few simple icons to press for each activity he wanted to do – and different smells to help him recall the processes for each one. Now he can Skype his family, look up his favourite musicians, and find new music. He’s ordering his prescriptions online and he’s found out more about Alzheimer’s disease – so he feels more in control. He’s also joined some specialist groups so he’s getting out and about more.
He says: “I think I’m now using my brain more and using the computer has let me start doing more exercise, which helps me. When I want to talk to someone or if I’m feeling sorry for myself I know I can click on one button and I can talk to my son, I can click on another and talk to my daughter – another lets me talk to my grandson in Australia. It’s great!
“My family say it lets them keep an eye on me – I think being able to see me and talk to me means they don’t have to worry. I like to be able to do things for myself. I would say that everyone should learn to get online. You don’t realise what you can do until you try it out and it has really helped me stop feeling sorry for myself, snap out of my depression and start looking forward to things again.”