5. Finding the best solution
It is important that anyone considering assistive technology has clear information on what is available. The bodies listed in 'Other useful organisations', as well as the companies that make the devices, may be able to help with this.
People respond differently to different devices, and the products should meet the needs of the individual as best they can. Choosing a piece of assistive technology is not always easy, but it is important to find the best solution. Decision-making should be shared, and the person with dementia should be supported and involved as much as possible in discussions and choices.
If someone has been using a device (eg smartphone or tablet) before they developed dementia, then a solution based around this technology may be easier for the person to adopt.
Many devices can be bought independently, but before doing so it is advisable to seek professional advice. An occupational therapist, adult social services assistive technology or telecare team (contact your local council), or a local assisted living centre will all have expertise in this area. Your GP or social worker is less likely to have the detailed expertise themselves, but they should be able to help you find an expert and get an assessment. Even if these professionals can't offer the devices directly, the person with dementia may find that they are eligible for an assessment, or are able to get help in finding the best device or financial assistance.
Things to consider when looking for assistive technology
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing assistive technology - what works for one person may not work for another. For example, one person might find it helpful to have a recorded message reminding them to take their keys with them, while another person might find this confusing. It can help to think carefully about the person's specific needs and capabilities, and consider what the benefits of using the technology might be.
It is important to make sure the technology is supporting the person and not restricting them. It is also a good idea to look at the person's living space and see if there are adaptations to the environment that may help (eg making sure there are good lighting levels and removing trip hazards). For more information see the page: Equipment, adaptions and improvements to the home.
When choosing assistive technology, some things to consider include:
- whether there is definitely a need for assistive technology, or whether there is another solution
- the degree of memory loss and types of difficulties the person has
- the person's needs, preferences and ability to use devices, and how these might change over time
- whether the person has any other conditions that may affect how they use the technology (eg poor sight or hearing)
- the level of support the person can rely on
- how well the technology will fit in with the person's usual routines
- whether the technology requires a phone line or internet access
- the cost of the technology - some devices are expensive, but the cost of mainstream technologies are falling in many cases.
You can also find a list of questions to consider when choosing a solution in the Dementia-friendly technology charter.
It is also worth being aware that the earlier the technology is introduced, the more successful it is likely to be. This is because the person will have more time to get used to it before their dementia gets worse. Some people with dementia choose to refer to the use of assistive technology, particularly tracking technology, when they are documenting their wishes for the future (advance care planning).