Coping with dementia – there’s an app for that

Coping with dementia – there’s an app for that

Simple changes in the home can be an effective way for those with the early signs of dementia to retain their independence. It is not always clear what measures can be taken, however, but a new app has been designed to help patients and family members navigate the difficulties.

Iridis offers advice in around 20 minutes on how to adapt a person’s home to make it more dementia-friendly. Among the areas that it helps to tackle are injury, risk and confusion, based on specific circumstances.

Some of the suggestions offered by the smartphone app include installing grab rails in the bathroom and having better lighting installed. Colour co-ordinating cutlery or changing the colour of a toilet bowl to make it easier to find are other pieces of advice.

Although some of the recommendations could seem generic, the way the app works means its suggestions should suit each individual’s circumstances. Photos of the patient’s living quarters are submitted to the app so that the guidance is tailored to them.

The app is the latest project to be established by the University of Stirling’s Dementia Service Development Centre (DSDC). Scientists worked alongside Space Architects to find practical solutions to many of the issues experienced by dementia patients.

Lesley Palmer, chief architect at DSDC, said: “Iridis revolutionises how we improve the day-to-day lives of older people and those living with dementia around the world.

“At the touch of a button, people with dementia, their families and health professionals will be able to assess how dementia-friendly their built environment is and how it can be improved.”

One of the biggest challenges with dementia is trying to maintain a patient’s independence for as long as possible. While small changes can make all the difference, such advice has not been as easily accessible in the past.

Iridis was launched to coincide with World Alzheimer’s Day on September 21st and was demonstrated with an assessment of a two-bedroom house. This demo took just 20 minutes, although it would be longer for a larger abode.

The recommendations are based on research that shows how changes to room layout and other simple measures have improved the quality of life in those with dementia. Sharp contrasts between elements in the bathroom makes them easier to discern, for example.

As the app is used by more and more people, it is hoped their experiences will add to the bank of information in order to improve it. There are currently two versions of the app on the market – the first is free and aimed at dementia sufferers and their families, while the other is a premium version priced at £14.99.

This second edition of the app is designed for architects that are looking to build dementia-friendly accommodation. Keeping the needs of the patient in mind during the building process could lead to homes that are more appropriate for those with the condition.

Stephen Brooks, director of Space Architects, said: “I think this is an excellent tool for us, particularly because it gives us that solid base of information that is quantifiable.”