Assistive tech for dementia patients
There is a range of commercially available and emerging assistive technologies that with further interdisciplinary research and modiﬁcations may have potential applications to dementia care. Emerging products demonstrate slow but steady progress in a ﬁeld that began some decades ago with nonintelligent, primarily unifunctional devices to one that now incorporates heterogeneous sensor networks and artiﬁcial intelligence to sense and produce sophisticated predictive models of human activity and behavior. Clearly, much remains to be done by way of designing technologies and environments that are intelligent, context-aware, unobtrusive, passive (i.e., require minimal user initiation and maintenance), portable, inexpensive, in compliance with privacy regulations, and acceptable to their end users. Moreover, ultimate success must be measured not simply by functional improvement within limited speciﬁc domains but by personally meaningful impact on the user’s global quality-of-life.
Beyond the complexity of designing devices that are commensurate with an individual’s needs and preferences, critical research gaps also exist in the engineering and computer science domains. These include a) efﬁcient collection and storage of voluminous real-time continuous data from multimodal sources (basic and advanced sensors, audio and video technologies, etc.) that lend themselves to userfriendly access and analysis; b) development of automated data reduction and mining techniques to point to clinically meaningful events and deviations from a prior baseline (i.e., ﬁnding the needle in a haystack); c) integration, analysis, and correlation of the data with clinical parameters; d) further advancements in wireless network technologies that are capable of transmitting real-time multimodal digital data conﬁdentially to caregivers; and ﬁnally e) development of increasingly sophisticated computational and statistical techniques to model human activities and behaviors.
Ubiquitous health monitoring technologies also raise serious ethical considerations. The very systems that are designed to promote independence not uncommonly require varying degrees of privacy impingements to collect the data during both the developmental phase and the routine use.