Persons with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, Frontotemporal dementia, and other forms of dementia, often rely on technology to aid their memory and/or assist in keeping them safe. Both technology to assist persons who are still quite independent and live alone, as well as technology for those who require a live-in caregiver is available.
Persons with dementia may have difficulty remembering to take their medicine or may forget they have already taken it and take it again. Medication management is intended to prevent persons from forgetting to take their medicine, as well as stopping them from taking multiple doses.
Some of these devices are very simple, and are generally appropriate for persons who have recently been diagnosed with dementia or are in the early stage of the disease. For instance, pillboxes, or pill organizers, offer many options for those who have minimal memory loss. There are one week pill organizers labeled with the days of the week, one month medication containers labeled with numbers to coordinate with the day of the month, weekly pill containers with AM and PM compartments, and weekly pill containers with four doses of medication a day. Some of these medication organizers even have pull out compartments that can be removed once a dose has been taken to help avoid confusion.
There are also medication management devices that are more high-tech and are more suitable for persons who have greater dementia related memory problems. For instance, there are medication dispensers that are equipped with alarms that sound and/or have flashing lights when it is time for persons to take their pills. Please note, while the alarm serves as a reminder, it doesn’t ensure the person takes the correct dosage. There are other pill dispensers that are locked, but also are equipped with alarms, and only the compartment with the correct medication will open when it is time for the medication to be taken. There are also medication management devices that can be monitored remotely. For example, an alert can be sent to a caregiver if a loved one does not take their medication.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the number one cause of kitchen fires is the result of leaving something cooking unattended. For persons who have dementia, stove and oven safety is extremely important, and fortunately, there are solutions to assist in keeping them unharmed.
Stove knob covers are safety devices that cover stove knobs and prevent persons with dementia from turning on the stove. Basically, the covers are “bubbles” that turn without allowing persons to turn the actual stove knobs, and hence, prevent them from turning on the stove. Stove knob covers aid in the prevention of fires and burns and are very beneficial with persons who are in middle to late stage dementia. Please note, many persons in early stage dementia are still able to function quite independently and may still be able to safely use the stove. An alternative to using stove knob covers is to remove stove knobs and place them in a safe place where persons with dementia won’t be able to find them. When caregivers wish to use the stove, the stove knobs can easily be put back on.
Automatic stove and oven turn off devices are intended to allow persons with dementia to more safely continue to use the stove and oven. Some devices enable caregivers to limit when the stove/oven can be turned on and/or utilize a motion detector that automatically turns off the stove/oven when a person is no longer in the kitchen for a pre-determined length of time. However, depending on the stage of dementia, these devices are not suitable for all persons with the disease. For example, persons who are easily confused and disoriented are not good candidates for this type of technology.
Reminder messages serve a number of purposes, such as reminding a loved one to take his/her medication, to lock the door, to close the windows, or that he/she has a doctor’s appointment.
There are voice reminder devices that allow caregivers to customize reminders for their loved ones with dementia. Some voice-controlled technology allow caregivers to set a specific time for the reminder(s) to play, while others work via motion sensor. Devices that work via detection of motion can be very beneficial for those who are prone to wandering, as caregivers can pre-record a message that reminds a loved one not to leave the home at nighttime as he/she approaches the door. For persons with dementia who only have minor memory issues, a small digital recorder, such as a memo pen or one that can be hung around the neck, might be helpful. With this type of device, persons can record reminders for themselves and play them back later.
A more inexpensive option than voice reminder devices is written reminders. Examples include sticky notes, signs, and dry wipe boards (a whiteboard can be written on, erased, and reused). Written notes can be used for any number of reminders, such as brushing one’s teeth, putting on warm clothes, or indicating what is inside of a drawer. Please note, written reminders might not be suitable for persons in middle to late stage dementia, as they might remove the reminders or might have difficulty understanding certain words.
A common issue for persons with dementia is to misplace items. A person with early stage dementia may simply have issues remembering where they put their eyeglasses or another item, and those in moderate to late stage dementia may place items in unusual places, such as a kitchen cabinet, making it difficult for caregivers to assist in finding the missing item(s). One option to easily find lost items is to attach key rings with tracking devices to items that are commonly and regularly misplaced. Generally the keys are color-coded and when the corresponding color is pressed on the transmitter, the key ring beeps.
There is also an Orbit App available that utilizes a blue tooth tracker on the arm of a loved one’s glasses to assist in finding them if they are lost. Caregivers simply have to use the app, and via the app, an alert is sounded, allowing the glasses to be easily located.
To assist persons with dementia in the ability to call a loved one, there are picture phones. With this type of memory phone, numbers of friends and family are pre-programmed and a photo of each person is displayed. These devices allow persons with dementia to simply press the picture of the person they wish to call. Some picture phones allow caregivers to have only photos displayed, and some phones have photos and a number dial pad simultaneously displayed.