Searching for Dementia Assistive Technology: A Beginner’s Guide

Technology is a critical part of our everyday lives, a cornerstone of communication and convenience. But what about when it comes to care? The future of technology is a prominent topic today and is researched by institutions such as UC Berkeley’s Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), specifically relating to the ways it can provide help and support to the aging population. How can technology be used to benefit those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and the caregivers who devote their lives to their loved ones?

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Many of us have heard about the vast potential for technology to enhance caregiving, but few know exactly what type of technology they need. Thus, the concept of dementia assistive technology remains an abstract one for many Americans, who are not provided with an accessible and user-friendly marketplace in which to select helpful technologies suited to their needs.

For a caregiver searching for tracking technology to alleviate wandering, which is best for their loved one - WISO, GPS SmartSole, or SafeWander? While WISO has a number of discreet wearable options to allow continuous updates on your loved one’s location sent to your device, action from the person living with dementia is required to operate it effectively. The GPS SmartSole requires daily charging and maintenance, but it can track your loved one’s location without direct activation. Finally, the third tracking option, SafeWander, is specifically designed for nighttime safety and monitoring within the home. As you can see, while all three options track location, they each serve a very different purpose.

A number of considerations, including distance from your loved one, price, progression of the disease, and the complexities of operating the device must be taken into account when considering a purchase. In an effort to help you determine the dementia assistive technology that fits your needs, we have compiled a set of questions to consider before making a purchase:

What do I need help with?

Many products address multiple pain points. While it is tempting to choose products with a variety of helpful features, focus on solving one problem at a time. Ask yourself, “What do I need the most help with RIGHT now?”

How do I know if a company or product is reputable?

If you are shopping for products independently, start by looking at customer reviews. Families with similar care situations are the most reliable source for determining the value of a product. You can also look at a company’s partnerships. If a company is reputable, they will likely have well-established partners publicized on their website—either on the homepage or within the team description.

Will my loved one and I be able to use the product successfully?

All products have different intended users and some require a certain degree of technological savviness to effectively operate. According to the The American Journal of Accountable Care, it is important to choose technology that both you and your loved one will feel comfortable operating. Look carefully at the product description to determine skills that may be necessary. For example, if the product description makes note of Bluetooth connectivity, assume you will need to know how to connect devices via Bluetooth.

How long will I be able to use the product?

Before making a purchase, it is important to think critically about the nature of the pain point for which you are seeking help. Ask yourself: Will the problem I am trying to address persist? If not, can I repurpose the product? There is no concrete answer to these questions, and depending on your unique care situation and the intensity of your need, oftentimes even a short-term solution may be worth the expense.

Is the product worth the investment?

Always be cognizant of your family’s financial limitations. However, the answer to this question will depend on how large of a pain point the product addresses and how well it addresses the pain point. In general, most caregiving products are significantly less expensive than paid-care alternatives. Ask yourself the following: Can I find a less costly alternative? If not, the cost of the product is likely worth the investment—even if it is slightly outside of your desired price range.

If you would like assistance answering any of the latter questions, or help verifying the quality of a product or service, please email leda.ceo@alzyouneed.com. Or click here to fill out a 5-minute survey that tells us about your caregiving needs—we’ll do the rest for you.