Using Technology in Dementia Care

elderly-couple-on-computer1.jpgA new study, which will be conducted by the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) will look at ways in which technology may be better applied to caring for people with dementia and how it may provide relief to overworked caregivers.

The study

This study will enroll 2100 patients. For those in the study, a virtual care center will be established. Every patient will have a "navigator," who will maintain regular telephone contact with the family (and may make personal visits as well). In addition, a special internet dashboard will enable navigators maintain contact with the patient and caregivers.  According to a UCSF press release, "these navigators will triage calls, making sure that patients see nurses and doctors when necessary and helping with other things that don't require medical expertise, such as a hazardous situation in the home that could cause the patient to fall."

In addition, patients and caregivers will receive online training in areas such as financial planning and working through difficult medical decisions.

Second level

For some patients in the study, there will be a second level of technology. Smartphones and electronic wrist devices will measure patient activity levels. They will also provide alerts if patients wander away from home and help locate them if that is the case.

Some patients will be monitored in even greater depth, in an effort to obtain information that may indicate a need for preventive intervention. For example, the information gathered could inform a navigator if a patient is staying in bed all day or making more frequent trips to the bathroom. In such cases, steps may be taken to determine whether there is a medical or behavioral reason for these changes that needs to be addressed.

The results of the study will be watched with great interest by all caring for loved ones with dementia.​

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