The reduction in independence that dementia can cause can be alarming for those living with dementia as well as their families. But there are many ways to maintain independence that can be specifically catered to the needs of the individual. In this blog, it is discussed how caregivers play an important role in supporting independence, the use of assistive technology (AT) and Mylo, a dementia support robot, that can help an individual maintain their independence and reduce caregiver’s stress and workload.
As a progressive disease, independence decline occurs throughout the stages of dementia. Coming to terms with a decrease in independence is challenging, and asking for help can be even harder. The conditions of dementia, such as memory loss, language, spatial issues and mood changes can decrease an individual’s independence level. It also highly impacts the family member’s daily life.
Family members in carer situations can have a shockingly low quality of life metrics. Family members have felt the need to give up paid employment to look after their parent 24/7 which could further impact them financially and cause worry for themselves as well as the individual living with dementia. At times people reported sleeping on the floor in front of their parent’s bedroom at night to ensure they didn’t wander from the house and become lost. Communication barriers become more evident as dementia progresses, putting an additional strain on the relationship. An issue felt by many is social isolation, as was the associated guilt felt by family members and the guilt felt by the individuals being cared for was barrelling toward disassociation.
How caregivers can help maintain independence for those living with dementia?
The progression of dementia will lead to a higher need for support and care. As these changes occur it's important for families and care teams not to take over all responsibilities for the individual. Alzheimer's Society suggests that the individual living with dementia should still play as active of a role as possible in the control of their daily lives. If there is a task they are no longer able to do, try to find a new way for them to complete the task rather than doing the task for them. Caregivers can support those living with dementia in a multitude of ways, to support independence consider;
Do things together, rather than for them.
Focus on the individual’s strengths and things they can do.
To make a task more manageable, break it down into smaller tasks.
Focus more on the process rather than the completion of a specific task. The individual may still find comfort in doing a familiar task differently.
Ways to support independence in people living with dementia
There are many ways to support independence for those living with dementia. Making modifications to the home design can help those living with dementia remain at home. Additionally, there is equipment and assistive technologies that can be used to make daily tasks easier allowing those living with dementia to be active, safe and independent.
What are assistive technologies?
Assistive technologies (AT) incorporates a broad range of devices that can be responsive, preventative or supportive. These devices are to be a part of an overall care package, not to be used in isolation. The goal of AT is to support the individual, giving them a better quality of life and help them remain in their own homes. The support AT can provide to those living with dementia can help increase their confidence and safety in their own home while providing support to caregivers, giving them peace of mind. AT are commonly grouped based on the daily living and function they support. Those groups are:
Daily prompts and reminders
Communication / social interaction
How can assistive technologies support independence?
Within the four groupings, prompts and reminders, communication, leisure and safety AT are helping to support independence.
Prompts and reminders can help those living with dementia orientate themself through the use of clocks that show the time and display whether it is night or day. This orientation can also help prevent wandering. Other devices can help individuals find items that are lost through sounds or visual flashing. There are also many AT devices that can also help remind individuals of when to take medications. These could be simple cases that note the day of the week or something more advanced that automatically dispenses the needed pills.
Technology has also enabled the advancement of forms of communication. There are simply visual aids or phone designs that can display images of family and friends, or use larger easier to access buttons. Additionally, there are touchscreen devices that can help communicate with family and caregivers through video links. These technologies that can be touch or audio-activated can provide a simpler way to reach out to family members helping to maintain communication with loved ones.
For easier access to televisions, radios or music simpler remote controls can be used. Technology has also advanced here, many utilizing touch screens and audio cues to display pictures, videos or music.
When maintaining independence it is important to always ensure the individual’s safety. Common safety devices include alarms and sensors. Alarms are typically done through wearable buttons or devices the individual can activate or cords in the home that can be pulled when needed. Sensors are also utilised to monitor gas, smoke, extreme temperatures and carbon monoxide. These sensors can notify the resident and/or authorities as well as be designed to turn off potential dangers when detected.
This article “Assistive technologies to maximise independence in people with dementia” is a great source of additional information.
Mylo dementia support robot helps your loved one maintain their independence
Creating a home environment that is safe and utilises AT can help those living with dementia maintain their independence. There are multiple ATs available, each providing a specific function for an element of daily living. Mylo is a dementia support robot that provides many functions in one that helps those living with dementia maintain independence meanwhile provide a peaceful mind to caregivers. Of the four AT groupings discussed, Mylo provides support for each of them. He can prompt and remind you of appointments, medications, hydration cues and much more. Mylo enables families to stay connected through a video monitoring feature. Allowing family members, caregivers and the individual to communicate with ease. With a paired smartwatch, Mylo can respond to a patient's heart rate emergency and fall emergency by notifying caregivers through its functions of health emergency response and remote monitoring. Mylo is able to entertain through simple communication as well as play YouTube. And most importantly, he can help create a safer, more independent living environment. Mylo helps to maintain and assist the patient's independence to the greatest extent, while reducing the caregiver's workload, worry and stress.
Having Mylo provides companionship and support to those living with dementia, helping them maintain their independence and mobility as long as possible while giving families and caregivers peace of mind. For more information about Mylo, please visit the website (https://www.heymylo.ie/)
Everyone experiences dementia differently and many people wish to remain in their home as long as they can. But daily life activities may become more challenging, intervention with assistive living at an early stage can be helpful. Equipment and assistive technology can be brought into the home to help make living independently easier. Additionally, those that can remain at home can benefit from the familiarity of routine and the support of neighbours that they have developed relationships over the years.