Advancements in dementia care at home

Dementia care is often associated with locked wards, however, with technological advancement and a person-centred approach comes new possibilities for dementia care at home.

There are almost 500,000 Australians living with dementia. Rather than one disease, there are many types of dementia – all with their own presentations that can include a loss of memory, intellect, rationality, social skills and physical functioning. Types of dementia include Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body disease. Dementia can happen to anybody, but it is more common after the age of 65.

Research into quality dementia care continues to grow and provides important insights into improving quality of life of people with dementia, their families and carers.

Where once secure facilities and drug-therapy were the norm when it came to dementia care, there is now a move towards discovering ways to improve the quality of life for those living with dementia by managing their individual symptoms and providing a supportive environment.

Alternative approaches to dementia care

Alternative therapies aim to manage the behavioural and psychological symptoms through a variety of methods. Therapies can include validation therapy, reality orientation, reminiscence therapy and sensory therapies.

  • Validation therapy uses communication strategies to encourage people with dementia by accepting their reality.
  • Reality orientation provides information about the environment to help the person with dementia to orientate to their surroundings using aids and prompts.
  • Reminiscence therapy promotes memory by reviewing past events with the assistance of multimedia memory aids and games.
  • Sensory therapies use the stimulation of the different senses such as touch, smell, hearing and sight and can include art therapy, music therapy, aromatherapy and touch therapy.

According to Dementia Australia, there is some limited evidence that these therapies are beneficial in improving behaviour, mood and possibly cognition but further rigorous study is needed to demonstrate the effectiveness of these therapies.

These therapies could be accessed by a day respite program or delivered by carers within the home.

Home modifications for dementia

Dementia affects each person differently but common symptoms such as confusion, memory loss, disorientation, mobility and co-ordination may affect safety. Making some simple home modifications can help a person with dementia live as happily and independently as possible. The home environment should help them know where they are and find where they need to go.

Some tips include:

  • Keep room uncluttered and arrange furniture simply
  • Remove safety hazards such as loose rugs and long electrical cords
  • Ensure lighting is adequate and consider night lights in hallways to help night navigation to bathrooms
  • Set up a reminder system in a prominent place
  • Change the colour of door handles and toilet seats
  • Change out patterned carpet or flooring for plain colours
  • Repaint walls to be a neutral shade

Technology advancements in dementia care

Technology such as sensor mats and wearable devices are being successfully used to support people living with dementia in home and community settings. The technology allows residents to continue to live independently but with measures in place to keep them safe and secure. Specific dementia apps have also been designed to engage people with dementia and provide talking points for carers and family visitors.

Sensor mats can be placed at the side of the bed or at the front door of the apartment to send an alert to carers and family members that their loved one is on the move and may need some support, while wearable technology can be used as a tracking device and can also send alerts to carers if a person is attempting to wander outside.

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