‘Reminding device’ aids autonomy

Elderly people suffering from mild dementia may be able to live more autonomously in their home with new technology developed through a European-funded research programme.

The COGKNOW project has developed a touch-screen computer and mobile PDA-style device designed to help sufferers of dementia remember whether they, for example, locked the door before leaving the house, as well as prompting them to do simple everyday tasks.

The project’s scientific co-ordinator, Johan E Bengtsson of Luleå University of Technology in Sweden, said ’reminding devices’ are currently available but they are not specifically designed for those suffering from neurological disorders such as dementia.

Bengtsson explained that the COGKNOW touch-screen computer and mobile device would be accessed by clicking on simple icons that would contain such things as a user’s schedule, contacts with photos and instructions for day-to-day tasks.

A person’s house, he said, would be fitted with various sensors and actuators that are wirelessly hooked up to both devices. This means that a person with dementia could be alerted if they left the oven on, for example.

The COGKNOW group, which includes partners such as Telefonica and UK support from Ulster University and Belfast City Hospital Trust, aims to commercialise the technology before 2015.

Bengtsson said a key market barrier could be public policy, which he claims needs to be adapted for introducing more information and communication technology, and greater autonomy into the lives of those with mild dementia. He added: ’We have indications that this increased autonomy means people with dementia will be able to live in their homes for longer.’