Assistive technology

Assistive Technology has the potential to offer benefits to people with dementia and their carers in specific circumstances. However, there are practical and ethical issues that must be addressed with respect to the provision of assistive technology. The overarching principle of assistive technology must ensure that it is in the individual's best interests.

What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology can be defined as "any device or system that allows an individual to perform a task that they would otherwise be unable to do, or increases the ease and safety with which the task can be performed". [1] This includes a wide range of devices that can grouped according to their purpose. Supportive technologies help the individual to complete tasks; responsive technologies help manage risk and raise alarms; and preventative technologies prevent harm and raise alarms.[2] These technologies may include simple 'low tech' items such as basic mobility devices -walking sticks, walking frames, bath aids, calendar clocks through to more 'high tech' items such as automatic lighting and telecare. The term 'telecare' is used to describe sensors or detectors (for example movement, flood, gas, smoke or fall detectors) that automatically send a signal via a base unit connected to a telephone line ('tele') to a carer, community alarm or monitoring service and which can call for assistance ('care') when it is needed.[3]

Examples of assistive technology include:

  • Electronic location devices which let carers know if the people they care for have left the room or building. This includes GPS technology that can locate people who have left the home and become lost or disorientated.

  • Temperature, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. These can be linked with a number of devices, enabling gas or electricity supplies to be shut off automatically, or power operated windows to be opened.

  • Memo minders - can help people who have difficulty in remembering to carry out tasks.

  • Medication dispensers - these devices can help people who have difficulty in remembering to take their medicine