Assistive Technologies for People with Dementia

Assistive Technologies for People with Dementia

Christos N. Xenakidis, Antonis M. Hadjiantonis, George M. Milis
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8234-4.ch014
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This chapter focuses on the presentation and discussion of available assistive tools for people with dementia symptoms and cognitive decline, leading to the conclusion that these tools may, nowadays, will be replaced by mobile applications for smart devices. A functional mobile prototype assistive application for android platform devices like smartphones, tablets and smartwatches is presented, with features that offer support to the basic needs of caregivers and people with cognitive decline, giving more emphasis on people with early Alzheimer's disease symptoms. It is shown that, utilising the available technology, as well as existing literature and empirical knowledge, mobile applications may offer a serious alternative to currently available assistive tools, while also offering considerable functionality advantages.
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Challenges for People with Dementia

The weakening of the mnemonic functions is perhaps the most basic and most common challenge for people with dementia. Therefore, they are in need of external memory enhancers and reminding tools to retain daily responsibilities, methods of self-service, even the basic elements of their identity (Dey & Abowd, 2000). Furthermore, the decline of visual-spatial skills of people with dementia necessitates the creation of methods and tools to support the individual to orient in space, to assess the visual distances and respond to simple everyday needs that are associated with time (taking a drug) (Lauriks, et al., 2007).

The mnemonic eclipses experienced by people with dementia, sometimes temporary and sometimes permanent, generate many problems in their social life, as difficulty to go for a walk alone because of the risk to be lost and not remember the address of residence or name (Dey & Abowd, 2000). Therefore, these people move usually accompanied by carers or nurses, a fact that deprives them of any autonomy. Consequently, tools and applications become necessary, that drive the person to quickly find information relating first of all to his/her identity and residence (Lauriks, et al., 2007).

A challenge that arises is “Could the few available tools, mostly improvised, be used to actually support the person in need rather than stigmatise him/her?” For instance, a coat on the assisted person’s back indicating his/her identity and contact details with family, may offer access to direct care if the person is lost, but at the same time it might prevent him/her from undertaking activities such as a short walk, as often the person will feel exposed and humiliated (Hawkey, Inkpen, Rockwood, McAllister, & Slonim, 2005) So, it is important to understand that creating supportive applications and tools presupposes respect for the person’s dignity, personality and protection of personal health data. (McWalter, Toner, McWalter, Eastwood, Marshall, & Turvey, 1998).

Key Terms in this Chapter

PDA: A personal digital assistant (PDA), also known as a palmtop computer, or personal data assistant is a mobile device that functions as a personal information manager. PDAs were discontinued in early 2010s after the widespread adoption of smartphones.

Smartphone: A smartphone (or smart phone) is a mobile phone with more advanced computing capability and connectivity than basic feature phones. Smartphones typically include the features of a phone with those of another popular consumer device, such as a personal digital assistant, a media player, a digital camera, and/or a GPS navigation unit.

Least-to-Most Prompts: A prompt sequence with hierarchy that has a minimum of three levels. The first level is always the independent level (i.e., no prompts), and the remaining levels are sequenced from the least amount of help to the most amount of help.

Smart Device: A smart device is an electronic device, generally connected to other devices or networks via different protocols such as Bluetooth, NFC, WiFi, 3G, etc., that can operate to some extent interactively and autonomously.

GPS: The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a space-based satellite navigation system that provides location and time information in all weather conditions, anywhere on or near the Earth where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites.

Ambient Assisted Living: Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) are concepts, products and services which combine new technologies and the social environment in order to improve quality of life in all periods of life.

Android: A mobile operating system currently developed by Google and is designed primarily for touchscreen mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers, with specialized user interfaces for televisions (Android TV), cars (Android Auto), and smart watches (Android Wear).

MP3 Player: Is a portable digital consumer electronics device capable of storing and playing digital media such as audio, images, and video files.

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