For many years I have been sceptical about the potential of technology in cognitive decline. Not against it but sceptical and I must admit a little frustrated that a lot of money went into shiny looking flash-in-the-pan tech that went out of fashion a few months later. At Atlas, we kept an open mind to using the latest tech and over the years have trialled Virtual Reality, motion sensor games, Nintendo, and tablets. Each had short term benefits, short term attention spans and worked well as a marketing tool to engage families but didn’t appear to impact the person or the illness. We quickly reverted back to the core therapies based on social connections.
This year I have seen the light! I have recognised and seen the opportunities and potential technology brings to holistic dementia treatment and support. Attitudes within the community have changed radically in the last 12 months and this has allowed us to take advantage of some clever technology that I believe can do 3 things for families across the UK:
- Reduce the financial burden
- Improve Quality of Life (happiness)
- And maintain cognitive health
Alongside the change in attitude to tech within the older population, there has also arisen a greater need. Covid has reduced access to community support, reduced the number of voluntary organisations and traditional social interactions have been seen as high risk. All of us have been forced indoors and this has seen a devastating collapse in older peoples mental health (both those with cognitive decline and those without).
Finally, in the last 20 years, we have seen an increasing move towards individualised living. By that I mean an expectation and desire for products and services to cater for me, not in a generic sense but personally for me; my interests, my needs, my desires, now. This has crept across from the large technology platforms like Google and Facebook into the local way we view care. This is particularly important in dementia, where each person’s version of the disease is unique! The only way to cater to that is by making the most of tech platforms that allow us to both offer and demand a personal experience.
Technology has been a core part of many areas of healthcare for years, including robots in surgery, telehealth and algorithms to predict disease. I believe technology in dementia is now starting and is the future.