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Alison Rogan, External Affairs Director, Tunstall Healthcare, discusses why we need to make technology a better enabler for people with dementia.

Today the UK hosted the first G8 dementia summit with health ministers from eight countries coming together to lead international action to shape an international solution to the challenges of dementia. A new case of dementia is diagnosed every four seconds across the world, and in less than 10 years, there will be 1 million people living with dementia here in the UK, so action is needed now and the summit is a welcome move. But how do we make a difference for the thousands of people living with dementia, and their families and friends, today?

Dementia-friendly communities

Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia-friendly Communities (DFC) programme focuses on improving inclusion and quality of life for people with dementia. This is proving to be an essential vehicle for bringing together the great work being done on the ground by communities all over the country. During a recent DFC meeting, we began to explore how technology can improve people’s lives and this led to the formation of a new task and finish group, which I’m proud to say I’ve been asked to chair.

Dementia-friendly technology

The Dementia-friendly Technology (DFT) task and finish group had its first meeting in November and I was thrilled at the high level of enthusiasm and great depth of expertise in the room and because the meeting was so positive, we all agreed we needed to meet again before Christmas. There was overwhelming consensus that the main task of this group was the production of a Technology Charter in six months’ time, covering both assistive technology (safety, health, enhancing) and consumer electronics (TVs, etc.).

We also agreed the overall aims of the charter, namely:

  • Enable every person with dementia to have the opportunity to benefit from technology appropriate to their needs
  • To enable and encourage high-level principles and best practice for those organisations providing services to people with dementia

The Charter will also draw on findings from our joint report with the Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia-friendly technology: Delivering the National Dementia Challenge.

How does technology help and what’s the evidence?

Technology such as telecare has a key role to play in promoting independence and allowing people to stay in familiar home environments for as long as possible.

The Renfrewshire Dementia Service Evaluation, commissioned by the Joint Improvement Team and Scottish Centre for Telehealth and Telecare, recently reported on its quantitative and qualitative analyses, undertaken by York Health Economics Consortium.

The overall safety and effectiveness of Renfrewshire Council’s Telecare Service was demonstrated by the examples of clients who have been enabled to remain living safely in their own home despite their dementia, often for several years. Telecare has prevented, or at least delayed, admission to residential care for many people. Self-reported outcomes gave estimated net savings attributable to the 325 clients with dementia, over the five-year period, of over £2.8 million, equivalent to about £8,650 per client with dementia receiving a telecare system. The major savings were identified as 88 admissions to care homes avoided, and a further £0.75 million was saved by 114 hospital admissions avoided.

So today, technology is helping thousands of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias to live with enhanced independence at home. Families and carers have peace of mind, safe in the knowledge that if a loved one experiences difficulties, help will be summoned.

Whilst not a solution for everyone, telecare solutions can manage risks in a cost-effective manner, but more importantly they improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their loved ones.

Getting involved

For more information on how to join the DFT task and finish group or input into its work, please contact me on alison.rogan@tunstall.com

Interested parties can also join the Dementia-friendly Technology Group on LinkedIn

Read the Renfrewshire Dementia Service Evaluation

Ali Rogan, External Affairs Director, Tunstall Healthcare