Best Practice Guidance Human Interaction with Technology in Dementia

Recommendations based on the research conducted in the Marie Sklodowska Curie InnovativeTraining Network.

This article was written by guest contributors, and the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the authors.

Technology and dementia

Though the evidence is still limited, policy-makers, care professionals and researchers often see technology applications as promising solutions to promote independence and autonomy in people with dementia.

Technologies are increasingly vital in today’s activities in homes and communities. Nevertheless, little attention has been given to the consequences of the increasing complexity and reliance on them, for example at home, in shops, traffic situations, meaningful activities and health care services. The users’ ability to manage products and services has been largely neglected or taken for granted. People with dementia often do not use the available technology because it does not match their needs and capacities.

The rapid growth of the technological landscape and related new services have the potential to improve the overall effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of health and social services and facilitate social participation and engagement in activities. But which technology is effective and how is this evaluated best?

Successful implementation of technology in dementia care depends not merely on its effectiveness but also on other facilitating or impeding factors  on a micro, meso and macro level, related to e.g. the personal living environment (privacy, autonomy and obtrusiveness); the outside world (stigma and human contact); design (personalisability, affordability and safety), and ethics on these subjects.

Best Practice Guidance Human interaction with technology in dementia

This Best Practice Guidance results from the literature and field research conducted within the INDUCT project (2016-2020), a Marie Sklodowska Curie funded Innovative Training Network, which focused on technology for people with dementia in three areas (everyday life, meaningful activities and healthcare). The main aim was to develop a multi-disciplinary, intersectorial educational research framework for Europe to improve technology and care for people with dementia, and to provide the evidence to show how technology can improve the lives of people with dementia.

In the update of the Best Practice Guidance of December 2021 the first recommendations of a second Marie Sklodowska Curie funded Innovative Training Network on Technology and dementia, called DISTINCT (2019-2023) are included. The main aim of this second ITN is to provide the evidence to show how technology can improve the social health of people living with dementia by enabling them to 1) fulfil their potential on a societal level, 2) manage their own life and 3) participate in social and meaningful activities.

Regarding the research, both the INDUCT and the DISTINCT network had (have) three main objectives:

  • Identifying practical, cognitive & social factors that improve the usability of technology for people with dementia;
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of specific contemporary technology; and
  • Tracing facilitators & barriers for implementation of technology in dementia care.

The recommendations for improving the usability, effectiveness and implementation of technology in dementia which are presented in this Best Practice Guidance are meant to be helpful for different target groups: people with dementia, their formal and informal carers, policymakers, designers and researchers. For this reason representatives of these target groups were consulted and involved throughout the INDUCT and DISTINCT project.

The main aim is to provide the evidence to show how technology can improve the social health of people living with dementia by enabling them to 1) fulfil their potential on a societal level, 2) manage their own life and 3) participate in social and meaningful activities.

–Best Practice Guidance Human Interaction with Technology in Dementia

Summary of Recommendations

3.1 Practical, cognitive & social factors to improve usability of technology for people with dementia

Technologies are increasingly vital in today’s activities in homes and communities. Nevertheless, little attention has been given to the consequences of the increasing complexity and reliance on them, for example, at home, in shops, traffic situations, meaningful activities and health care services. The users’ ability to manage products and services has been largely neglected or taken for granted. People with dementia often do not use the available technology because it does not match their needs and capacities. In this section recommendations are provided to improve the usability of technology in daily life, meaningful activities and health care services for people with dementia,

3.2 Evaluating the effectiveness of specific contemporary technology

The rapid growth of the technological landscape and related new services have the potential to improve the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of health and social services and facilitate social participation and engagement in activities. But which technology is effective and how is this evaluated best? In this section recommendations are provided to evaluate the effectiveness of technology in daily life, meaningful activities and healthcare services for people with dementia and examples of proven effective technologies in some of these areas are provided.

3.3 Implementation of technology in dementia care: facilitators & barriers

Successful implementation of technology in dementia care depends not merely on its effectiveness but also on other facilitating or impeding factors related to e.g. the personal living environment (privacy, autonomy and obtrusiveness); the outside world (stigma and human contact); design (personalisability, affordability and safety), and ethics on these subjects. In this section recommendations are provided on the implementation of technology in everyday life, meaningful activities and healthcare technology.

Dynamic document

This Best Practice Guidance should be seen as a dynamic document that can, and will have to be, updated when new insights are available in the continuously developing technological landscape. The recommendations should therefore always be interpreted with caution. The Best Practice Guidance paved the way for the new Marie Sklodowska Curie funded ITN project DISTINCT (2019-2023) in which 15 new Early Stage Researchers are investigating the usability, impacts and implementation of technology in three domains of Social health in dementia: supporting/promoting their ability to fullfil their potential in the society, supporting/promoting self management in daily life and supporting/promoting social participation and meaningful activities.  The recommendations of DISTINCT will be continued to be included in the updates of the Best Practice Guidance in the coming years.

Further development and implementation

Research into the usability, impact and implementation of technology is still in its infancy. With this Best Practice Guidance we hope to inspire and stimulate many researchers, policy makers and investors in the development of technology for people with dementia and innovation of dementia care to effectively contribute to the further development and implementation of user-friendly, useful and easy implementable technology for people with dementia and carers and dementia care in general.

GET MORE INFORMATION

Find the full report Best Practice Guidance Human Interaction with Technology in Dementia here and review the expanded recommendations here.

Learn more about the work of  INDUCT - Interdisciplinary Network for Dementia Using Current Technology.

Learn more about the work of DISTINCT - Dementia: Intersectorial Strategy for Training and Innovation Network for Current Technology

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