Guest article: Technology solutions and dementia care – What’s available?
While the coronavirus crisis led to some of the biggest challenges ever seen by the social care sector, the investment in technology dramatically increased as care providers sought to offer consistent and high-quality care while also supporting people diagnosed with COVID-19.
In this article, James Rycroft, Managing Director at specialist dementia care provider Vida Healthcare, discusses the different technology solutions available to integrate into dementia care and its benefits.
As people progress through their dementia journey, their needs will change but the requirement for suitable care and enrichment doesn’t diminish. It’s important to make sure the right entertainment is being delivered for each individual, and technology can play a crucial role in supporting care providers in keeping the people they care for engaged.
Technological solutions such as sensory equipment, for example magic surfaces and interactive tables, can enable caregivers to provide a fun way to stimulate and engage people living with dementia to move more and interact socially.
Sensory equipment can offer a range of interactive experiences including games and lights which can usually be projected onto walls and tables. The projections respond to hand and arm movements which help to break through apathy by stimulating both physical and cognitive activity, and encouraging social interaction.
Virtual reality (VR) can also provide entertainment and enrichment for people living with dementia. VR activates our sensorimotor contingencies which can fool the brain into believing that we’ve been transported to another world, and that what is happening is real.
VR can offer people living with dementia, and in particular care home residents, the chance to go on ‘real-world’ walks and experience places they can no longer visit or may have always wanted to travel to. This technology can in turn vastly improve the quality of life for people living with dementia by helping to recall past memories, reduce aggression and improve interactions with care providers.
Not only is it important to keep people living with dementia entertained and enriched, but activity is also crucial. While supporting outdoor activity is highly beneficial, this isn’t always possible and technology can be used in this case.
Adapted exercise equipment, such as indoor bikes, which are combined with video and sound can take users on cycling trips through familiar surroundings and childhood memories. Benefits can include improved mobility, faster rehabilitation, increased appetite, reduction in pain and better sleep, alongside better mental and social well-being.
Video calling apps have also been crucial in allowing for the continued provision of exercise classes during COVID-19, especially where external trainers are required. Initiatives such as stretching classes which can continue as normal using video calling apps gives people living with dementia the opportunity to try different exercise formats, and socialise with both caregivers and the person leading the class.
Technology can also develop and support crucial connections between caregivers, people living with dementia and their loved ones when living in a residential care setting, particularly during a health crisis like COVID-19.
Ecare plans allow family members and loved ones of care home residents live access to their health and care plans. This enables key stakeholders to remain involved with the care of their loved one, and to ensure that consent is secured along every step of the care journey.
In addition, care home operators should consider establishing webinars to keep family members and loved ones up-to-date with the plan of action as we move into winter, and be able to ask any questions they may have.
At Vida Healthcare we’ve developed and launched a valuable new app to keep our residents and their families connected during COVID-19 and beyond.
The Family Team Talk app was developed to allow families and friends of residents at our care homes to see a snapshot of daily life. The app is user friendly and gives families instant access to catch up on the health and wellbeing of their loved one through posts and updates from staff, videos and images.
Launching this app has raised the morale of relatives, residents and staff, and given everyone a greater feeling of connectivity and reassurance.
Technology has a huge number of benefits and can support care providers in a range of ways when it comes to delivering specialist dementia care. It’s important that technology is integrated as soon as possible to safeguard services for the future, and ensure high quality care is delivered, especially in the case of future crises arising.
About Vida Healthcare
Vida Healthcare was established to transform the care available to people living with dementia, with a focus on championing the use of bespoke environments and alternative therapies to improve wellbeing and quality of life.
More than three years of research went into the planning of the first home, Vida Hall in Starbeck, and the company worked with leading consultants to develop an innovative, state-of-the-art home. Vida Healthcare’s second care home, Vida Grange in Pannal, opened in December 2016. Following the same design principles and philosophy of care, Vida Grange offers high quality care, state-of-the-art facilities and home comforts.
The latest care home, Vida Court, is currently under construction and is due to open in Harrogate in 2021.