Assistive technology and dementia

Today we are living in the world of assistive technology, a totally different world to what many of us were used to and something that many of us never expected in the future, and like it or not we are in it whether we want it or not.

Assistive technology covers a very wide spectrum, and many simply do not appreciate its use in modern times.

We get so used to hearing about street and traffic cameras which monitor us, but we never consider that this technology goes even further, as it takes on things like hearing aids, lap top computers, and lastly mobile phones, things which can be monitored by those with the knowledge, so they know exactly what we are watching doing and listening to at any given time.

There are also many things which are used to enhance a person’s life when they have a long term illness, such as computer voice activated software, which allows the person to speak normally in front of the computer, and they can then sit back and watch the computer write down exactly what has been said. Yet many people assume quite wrongly these days, that a person with Dementia can not use assistive technology.

Many still tend to forget that people are being diagnosed at an early stage these days and therefore anything that can enhance their lives, and promote that extra bit of freedom and independence is well worth considering. All we want is to be free and active for a bit longer, without having to rely on other people for support, something that will come eventually, and then we will not be allowed to enjoy this freedom.

I have heard quite a few people say that these gadgets should not be supplied as they do away with our civil liberties, they never consider for one moment, that when we are diagnosed with this illness we tend to lose our so called civil liberties.

So why is it so very wrong for us to use gadgets that are open to all in the modern world.

You simply don’t have to go far these days to see assistive technology openly being used by everyone around, and yet many of these people use it just for show, to prove to others that they may be able to keep in contact with other people whether it is on a boat, train or plane, they don’t really need it its just for show.

Yet thousands of people need support with this type of equipment in one way or another because of their illness, but they don’t flaunt it and only use it when the time comes.

One of the things used quite often is a form of tracking device which allows the person, with dementia to carry on taking walks unaided. Most of these can be tracked on a standard computer when needed, in a similar way to that used by some parents who wish to track their children, by tracking the position of the mobile phone using a computer. Our own County Council is now piloting a scheme allowing people to use and assess these gadgets, which tend to be expensive for the public to buy, and that is wonderful. I find nothing wrong in their use, as they are in fact no different to carrying a standard mobile phone around. The satellite tracks the person, and no one else knows where they are until the panic button is pressed. Once that has happened the tracking and monitoring station, sends out a signal to either the County Council or the Carer, and they can then go out and retrieve the person carrying the device

Another item mentioned earlier, is the voice activated software for computers. This allows those with memory problems to do things like life stories, independent of others, simply by speaking to the computer. There may be problems with corrections or local accents, but with support, this can be done without to much stress. I confess that when I first did this, I was spooked a little at seeing the computer write down everything I was saying, but after a while I forgot about it, as it may life so much more easier to control.

I personally find nothing wrong with this as I have my freedom.

I am also now on a trial with a Buddy tracking device through our County Council, the idea is that by using these we will be able to to carry on living a normal life without needing the support of my wife and family, or having them worrying about me when I am out walking. These devices are monitored by the county council carers service who also have my wifes contact details, for emergencies.

This service also allows the council to monitor the devices to see if they could be used by others with this illness. They are already heavily involved with using and supplying assistive technology devices to those in need around the county and this will be an extra device if successful bearing in mind that the terrain in this area is not always good for mobile signals.

But I would advise everyone to go and see what is available on the market to make life that bit easier.


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