Just as technology increasingly features in everyday home life, advances in ICT are presenting major opportunities to advance the delivery of health care for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients in their own homes.
Helping people stay in their own homes for longer is a key objective for patients, families and healthcare professionals. Being cared for at home usually means more autonomy for the individual but must be balanced safety considerations. As the disease progresses, the risks of living alone at home increase significantly.
Innovations are unlocking new ways of extending the time people are able to stay autonomous by mitigating risks and empowering sufferers to play a more active role in their own care. They are also giving families, healthcare professionals and service providers new tools for delivering high-quality patient-centric care.
New apps and wearables are helping to integrate care discreetly and efficiently into daily life. GPS trackers in shoes, smartphone apps and online platforms that let patients and families rate places for dementia-friendliness are all making coping with early and intermediary stage symptoms easier.
Remote patient monitoring has a central role
Giving reassurance to healthcare professionals that patients have successfully completed daily tasks like locking the front door or turning off the oven means lower risk and better-targeted interventions.
Remote monitoring also helps clinicians and families to identify problems sooner and means that face to face time can be spent more effectively, driving up quality at the same time as driving down costs.
Better data for better results
Especially early on, clinicians are dealing with very few data points, gathered through infrequent face-to-face contact. By introducing technological solutions at the outset, issues are more likely to be identified quickly.
Systems for sharing data are also key. By automatically sending the right data to the right person at the right time – whether that is a neighbor, family member, clinician or service provider, the quality of care can be improved.
Letting a neighbor, for example, know that the patient has missed a check-in means an investigation can be carried out quickly by a familiar face, which either gives reassurance or allows the alarm to be raised sooner than with traditionally scheduled visits.
Working in this way, not only can care be improved, but costs can simultaneously be reduced.
Building technology-assisted safety nets
Creating a more effective safety net around a patient also gives them more confidence to live independently, knowing that help and support are readily available should something go wrong. Automated alert systems and data sharing mean the alarm can be raised quickly with the right person. That means people can live fuller lives for longer because fear is lessened.
In general, individuals prefer to be cared for at home, and innovations in technology for dementia and Alzheimer’s care is allowing the creating of increasingly accurate and tailored healthcare plans that allow that.
Well integrated into patient-centric care, we see new technology and connectedness as a means of empowering individual patients to live more independent lives and stay at home for longer. It also allows clinicians to deal with budgetary pressures and an ageing population without the significant investment that would normally require.
Author: Laszlo Varga