Enabling people with dementia to access and understand assistive technology

Lead Investigator: Dr Lisa Newton

Institution: University of Newcastle

Grant type: Clinical Training Fellowship

Duration: 48 months

Amount: £222,371

Scientific Title: Supporting Memory Assessment Services to enable people with dementia and their families’ timely access to assistive technology

Why did we fund this project?

Comments from members of our Research Network:

'This is a very valuable proposal which could bring relief to patients and carers in a practical way.'

'I think this is very important. Modern technology has tremendous potential to help patients and their carers, but it is often not understood and not easily available.'

'Very thorough in every respect. The combination of technological/medical qualifications [are] undoubtedly helpful. The area of study is worthy of the exploration which this study intends.'

What do we already know?

Assistive technology is the name given to any aid or device that helps people to become more independent. Available technologies for people affected by dementia include clocks to help with orientation, automated medicine dispensers and Global Positioning System (GPS) devices.

Dr Newton has previously spoken to people affected by dementia and their carers and found that many support the use of assistive technology, feeling that it helps to keep people safe and may even allow the carer to remain in work for longer.

Most assistive technology devices are bought privately by the person with dementia or their carer or family, or people use homemade or 'DIY' devices. Many people find it difficult to find information on assistive technology from health and social care services such as their GP or a Memory Assessment Service.

What does this project involve?

Dr Newton wants to find out how healthcare professionals, such as those working in Memory Assessment services, approach giving out information about assistive technology to people affected by dementia. 

The project involves three streams. One is surveying and interviewing professionals working in Memory Assessment Services to find out what their current practice is. The second stream involves interviewing people affected by dementia and their carers about their experiences with getting information and access to assistive technology through a memory service. The third will use this information to find out what best professional practice would be and design and develop educational and online resources to help to implement best practice referral pathways. 

How will this benefit people with dementia?

Previous research indicates that assistive technology is best used as early as possible after a diagnosis so that the person with dementia and their carers can get used to using the devices. By accessing information about assistive technologies early in the diagnostic process, people will be able to make informed decisions about what they can use now or might like in the future to help them live well with dementia.