Assistive technology

3. Assistive technology and dementia

While assistive technology may not be suitable for everyone with dementia, for some people it can bring benefits that help them to live well with the condition.

Assistive technology can:

  • promote independence and autonomy
  • improve confidence and quality of life for a person with dementia
  • help manage potential risks in and around the home
  • support a person with dementia to live at home for longer
  • help with memory and recall
  • support a person with dementia to maintain some abilities
  • provide reassurance to carers and help them to feel less stressed.

What are the potential difficulties?

Using assistive technology has lots of potential benefits, but it also has its difficulties. Assistive technology can never replace human contact and interaction and it should never be used for this purpose. Doing so may lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness for the person with dementia. It is also important to be aware that assistive technology will not eliminate risk. It can only assist people in improving their safety and wellbeing, not provide perfect solutions.

Some assistive technology (eg telecare or remote monitoring) is focused on increasing safety and reducing risk. Products may not have been designed with the specific wants of the person with dementia in mind and, as a result, there may be less focus on this. Instead, it is expected that the person will adapt to the technology, not the other way round. Expecting the person with dementia to adapt, without listening to their views, can affect how keen they are to use the technology. This in turn will affect how successful it is.

Assistive technology can also be quite expensive, especially some of the more high-tech devices, although it is often possible to rent these. This can be helpful, as the device or system may only be helpful for a short period of time because the person's needs may change as the condition progresses.

Using devices or systems that monitor people, or that allow someone else to track them, may also raise ethical issues that should be considered. For more information see 'Ethical considerations' below.