Welcome to the third of my seven blog posts for UK Dementia Awareness Week 2015.
This year’s Dementia Awareness Week centres around the theme of doing something new for people with dementia, under the mantra that ‘Life doesn’t have to end when dementia begins’. For many people living with dementia in care homes, however, a lack of opportunities to have meaningful occupation and activity, or even just enjoy the simple pleasures that many of us take for granted, can lead to life feeling like it really has ended.
Over this Dementia Awareness Week (DAW2015) I want to look at some of the positive things relatives and staff can do to enhance the lived experience of people with dementia in care homes. They may be new things, or they may be old favourites, but they all share in the ability to turn a boring day into something a little bit more special.
Day 3: Technology
The idea of using technology is a controversial one in dementia care. Some care homes embrace iPads, iPods, daily living aids, Skype, monitoring equipment and even GPS, but many more either ignore it completely, or make expensive purchases that are never fully utilised. If you’re in the latter two categories, now may be the time for you to consider doing something new with technology.
Many care providers associate technology with the classic health and safety options of sensors and alerting systems. I’m not saying that sensors that detect motion or devices that alert staff when a person has fallen aren’t great, of course they are and they should be used appropriately for every person who would benefit from them, but for life in a care home to have the richness we all take for granted when we close our own front doors, it’s vital for care providers and families to think about ways to promote independence, creativity, connectedness and fun.
I would never advocate using technology to replace one-to-one human interaction, but there are elements of technology that can greatly enhance the lived experience of people with dementia in care homes. Having a clock designed to help people with dementia find out the day and time can help with orientation and maintaining independence, personal music players like iPods can be a fantastic therapy for alleviating upsetting symptoms, and devices like talking electronic photo albums can provide reassuring visual and audible reminders of relatives when they are absent.
There is also an increasingly strong argument for having Wi-Fi in care homes (providing you also offer access to devices that can use that Wi-Fi!). Once you have an internet connection and a device a world of possibilities opens up, not least with helping residents to maintain connections with relatives far away, and helping staff to get to know those relatives and involve them in the care and support being provided by the care home. Skype is a perfect example of this in action, and some care homes also maintain Facebook pages to share photos and news, all of which has the potential to help bridge intergenerational divides between older people in care homes and the younger members of their families.
As ever though, be mindful that using screens to interact (particularly via Skype or electronic photo albums) isn’t suitable for everyone – some people may find them as upsetting as others find them reassuring. Being person-centred with the support you are providing is vital.
More information, tips and advice on technology can be found in the following D4Dementia blog post:
Next post on 20 May 2015.