Assistive tech for dementia patients

Average Ratings Feasibility


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.



6 Responses to “Assistive tech for dementia patients”

  2. “We currently use a PARO robot for this type of interaction. Fabulous results, but it does lack the analytical gathering capability. However, the reaction it produces far outweigh the long term research value, at this point.”

    Mike Frye at LinkedIn Group: Healthcare Technology Group focusing on Innovation, mHealth, &…

  3. “I agree that there has been progress in this area and there remains work to be done in developing the flexible technologies that will allow AT for people with cognitive impairments to be mainstreamed, but I’m not so sure that the focus needs to be on research. Not only is there a significant lag between such studies being planned, performed and published, but the implementation then involves another process of design and testing which further delays the acceptance of AT into mainstream provision, and in a way that neither stigmatises nor gets stuck in ethical arguments.

    I would suggest that there are already excellent examples of interventions using AT and telecare that are having an enormous impact on the quality of life of dementia sufferers and their carers. We hear little about them in evaluations because the solutions necessarily are bespoke – and generally require a dozen or more separate devices depending on the actual assessed needs and risks of the individual. These, in turn, depend on the level of support received, their coping strategies, their home environment and a host of other factors.

    My suggestion is that the greatest current need is for action research aimed at collecting the individual case studies of people who are, or who have been, supported in any way through multiple technology interventions. They are probably relatively few in number at this time, mainly because the knowledge of the AT prescribers is limited. This is, in turn, due to a lack of formal training which is not helped by the lack of published literature. The result is that reports and papers tend to focus on specific technologies rather than on the needs and how a combination of devices, carer interventions and professional support can lead to optimum outcomes. If more case studies can be made available (warts and all) then the technology designers will have more to work with, and will allow more innovation to be applied more quickly.”

    Kevin Doughty at LinkedIn Group: Telemedicine & E-Health

  4. Agree with Kevin. Technology let to develop lot of things, but which are the best and more flexible to assist dementia patients. I have a long experience as a caregiver to dementia patients and I’m focusing on the true need of caregiver with this kind of patients. Compact, easy to use and flexiblilty are some of the needs that caregivers wants. The number of WSN protocols and standards available is a nigthmare in the selection for enginners. Who will be the winner in wearable sensors standard and protocols? It is like a war with WIFI, Zigbee, 6LowPAN, Sub-GHz ect, ect.! My vision is will be there lot of single systems not compatible among them in the next years.


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