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Digital technology 'could benefit dementia patients and carers'

Digital technology 'could benefit dementia patients and carers'
29th September 2016

Technology could help those living with dementia, according to a new report. The Tinder Foundation has suggested that those diagnosed with dementia, as well as their carers, could improve their wellbeing through basic digital skills.

The report was based on responses from five community partners - Age UK South Tyneside, Denby Dale Centre, Oasis Community Centre, Canada Water and Lincs Training - from January to April this year. It also included findings taken from a three-year Widening Digital Participation programme and Reboot, which is the charity's lottery-funded programme.

According to the charity's report, becoming a bit more tech savvy could help enhance the lives of those diagnosed with dementia by helping them to better manage their everyday activities and leisure pursuits, as well as helping them become more independent. In addition, carers can access online support, get some time to themselves and easily find information that can help them fulfil their duties.

These findings could be highly beneficial to those living with dementia and those caring for them, whether they are doing so at home or in a care facility. This is especially important as the Office for National Statistics and SWEMWBS scores (a mental wellbeing scale) are lowest among these groups compared to the average figures across the UK.

Despite the positive findings in the Tinder Foundation's report, many carers and family members fail to see the benefits of dementia patients developing digital skills. As a result, they often do not put the time into teaching or money into purchasing IT equipment, meaning patients miss out on what could be a stabilising influence.

While age-related physical barriers can be an issue when it comes to helping dementia patients use digital technology, adaptive equipment is available that could make devices much simpler to use. This ensures patients of all ages are able to benefit from the advantages provided by different forms of technology, such as computers, tablets and smartphones.

Helen Milner, chief executive at the Tinder Foundation, said: “Digital is not just a channel where you push out services; it’s actually something that can be very empowering for patients and their carers.

“It’s really important that healthcare professionals from all different aspects of the health and social care sector are listening to the fact that digital has such an important role to play.”

Although the Tinder Foundation highlighted the benefits of technology usage, it also reiterated the fact that it is not enough to have the equipment and internet access, as these don't translate into using. Dementia patients require care and support to guide them through the digital realm to ensure they are getting the most out of it. This means support that is tailored to individual needs and is reactive to their illness as it progresses.

This support is also required for carers, who may not necessarily know the best ways to safeguard data, which can impact themselves and their patients. Understanding digital security can help them keep patients' information safe - which was found to be a big concern among those suffering with dementia and their families - and ensure they are not posting confidential information in public forums relating to their patients.

The Tinder Foundation is hoping to expand on these findings with an NHS Digital-supported programme that will help the charity put the results of this report into practice.