Digital Technologies in Dementia Care

Digital Technologies in Dementia Care

Tiago Coelho
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8634-1.ch006
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Dementia is characterized by significant cognitive deterioration, behavioral and psychological symptoms, and expanding disability. The well-being of people with dementia is influenced by the support provided by caregivers and health professionals. Especially in the past two decades, advancements in digital technology have helped reshape the way care and treatment are delivered. The main goal of the chapter is to describe technological solutions aimed at supporting the independence and safe participation of people with dementia in meaningful activities, as well as promoting their involvement in engaging experiences that seek to delay cognitive decline and diminish behavioral and psychological symptoms. These technologies include distributed systems, robotics, wearable devices, application software, and virtual reality.
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Dementia is a syndrome that is characterized by a significant cognitive decline in areas such as memory, language, executive functions, social cognition, psychomotor speed, attention, orientation, and visuoperceptual abilities (Arvanitakis, Shah, & Bennett, 2019; World Health Organization [WHO], 2021). Also known as a neurocognitive disorder, it has different subtypes which are categorized according to their etiology (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Dementia is usually caused by neurodegenerative conditions, such as Lewy body disease, frontotemporal lobar degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease – which accounts for 60-70% of cases (Gale, Acar, & Daffner, 2018; WHO, 2017). Frequently, these conditions are accompanied by cerebrovascular disease, which contributes to the cognitive impairment (Arvanitakis et al., 2019; Gale et al., 2018). Although dementia affects each person in a different way, depending on the underlying brain pathology, cognitive reserve, among other factors, cognitive deterioration gradually increases during several months or years in most cases, starting by causing difficulties in recalling events and facts, learning new information, and communicating, whereas in later stages, an overall severe cognitive impairment is evident (Arvanitakis et al., 2019; WHO, 2012).

In addition to cognitive deficits, nearly all people with dementia (PwD) present neurocognitive disturbances, known as behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD), which, in general, worsen as dementia progresses (Gottesman & Stern, 2019; Savva et al., 2009). These include depression, anxiety, apathy, delusions, irritability, aggressiveness, hallucinations, disinhibition, eating disorders, changes in circadian rhythms, euphoria, agitation, and aberrant motor behavior such as wandering (Cerejeira, Lagarto, & Mukaetova-Ladinska, 2012; Cipriani, Lucetti, Nuti, & Danti, 2014; Savva et al., 2009). Although apathy, agitation, depression, and irritability seem to be the most frequent, BPSD are largely unpredictable and may vary from individual to individual, as well as during the course of dementia (Cerejeira et al., 2012; Gottesman & Stern, 2019; van der Linde et al., 2016). Certain factors such as environmental stressors, pre-morbid personality traits, and difficulty to communicate unmet physiological and psychosocial needs, may contribute to these neuropsychiatric symptoms (Cerejeira et al., 2012; Cohen-Mansfield, Dakheel-Ali, Marx, Thein, & Regier, 2015).

Furthermore, dementia interferes with participation and with the ability to perform activities independently. These functional difficulties usually expand to several areas of occupation over time, considering the progressive nature of the vast majority of dementias (Arrighi, Gélinas, McLaughlin, Buchanan, & Gauthier, 2013; Chung, 2004; Giebel, Challis, & Montaldi, 2015). Indeed, people in early stages of dementia may struggle to execute more complex instrumental activities of daily living – such as shopping or managing medication – and experience difficulties in social participation. However, later stages are characterized by general inactivity and complete disability in all areas, including basic activities of daily living, such as bathing or eating.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Wearable Devices: Technologies incorporated into items of clothing or accessories worn by an individual.

Serious Games: Games that are developed for a purpose beyond entertainment, such as training or education.

Virtual Reality: Computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment that can be interacted with by a person using specific electronic equipment, providing the user with a sense of presence in the environment.

Caregiving: Providing assistance to another person in order to support daily activities and fulfill basic needs.

Intelligent Assistive Technologies: Technologies with computation capability and the ability to share data through a network, used to provide assistance to people with disability.

Distributed Systems: A set of technological components that are connected through a computer network in order to achieve common goals.

Cognitive Decline: Deterioration of mental functions.

Disability: Impairment that limits activity and participation.

Robotics: The field of technology dealing with the design, manufacture, and operation of mostly autonomous mechanical systems that are controlled by computer programs.

Application Software: Computer program designed to perform specific tasks for end-users.

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