Assistive Technologies and the Carers of People With Dementia: Empowerment and Connection

Assistive Technologies and the Carers of People With Dementia: Empowerment and Connection

Sarmishtha Bhattacharyya, Susan Mary Benbow
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7122-3.ch003
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Assistive technologies have a role in supporting both formal and informal carers of people with dementia, and in maintaining the independence, and quality of life of both people with dementia and their carers. The authors report a narrative review of the use of technological interventions to empower the carers of people with dementia, and relate this to a model of ageing well. They argue that this highlights the importance of empowering and connecting with carers in order to increase their participation and connection in the care of their relative/client; and conclude that both empowerment and connection contribute to maintaining autonomy and well-being of both carers and people with dementia. Technological interventions should not be used as alternatives to connection. The emphasis in practice should be on empowering and connecting with both carers and people with dementia.
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In the United Kingdom (UK) currently, there are about 800,000 people with dementia, of whom approximately 665,000 live in England. Dementia costs the UK economy £17 billion a year, and, in the next 30 years, the number of people with dementia in the UK will double to 1.4 million, with care costs trebling to over £50 billion per year (Alzheimer's Society, 2007). The care of people with dementia presents a huge challenge to society now, and demand is set to increase further in the future.

There are approximately six million carers in the UK: 1.4 million of them provide unpaid care for more than 50 hours per week (Office for National Statistics, n/d; The NHS Information Centre Social Care Team, 2010). The work of unpaid carers makes a significant contribution to the UK economy, and it is estimated that carers save the taxpayer approximately £119 billion per year (Buckner & Yeandle, 2011), equivalent to £2.3 billion per week. The Alzheimer's Society estimates that there are 670,000 people in the UK acting as primary carers for people with dementia (Alzheimer's Society, 2012) and unpaid informal carers are a major part of the support system for people with dementia. Many of the carers of people with dementia are themselves elderly, and may have long-term health conditions or disability. Two-thirds of all people with dementia live in their own homes with unpaid carers providing most of their support. The EUROCARE study (Schneider, Murray, Banerjee, & Mann, 1999) found that half of all people with dementia in the community received at least 35 hours of informal care per week. Although many carers report personal satisfaction from their caring role, it is recognised that unpaid caring has a considerable impact on the carer’s health and well-being and can lead to emotional and physical exhaustion, depression, poor general health and isolation (Alzheimer's Society, 2013a).

The impact of dementia on the families of those with the condition is profound. Dementia results in a progressive decline in multiple areas of function, including memory, communication, language and daily living skills (Department of Health, 2009). Moreover, people with dementia may develop behavioural and psychological symptoms (BPSD) such as depression, psychosis, aggression or wandering. BPSD are common, often problematic for carers, and may affect almost all people with dementia (Savva et al., 2009), complicating care at any stage of the illness.

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