Advancements in technology have various benefits in everyday life. From wi-fi, smartphones and AI assistants, our lives are becoming more linked to these devices. As the smart home continues to develop, one centre is soon to open which is dedicated to creating technological solutions to support dementia patients and their home carers.
What Is The Aim of the Centre?
Based at the Imperial College London White City campus, the UK Dementia Research Institute’s Care Research and Technology Centre is part of a multi-partner collaboration. The centre is expected to cost £20m to run with funding coming from the Medical Research Council, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. Their aim is to develop a system that can be used by dementia sufferers which combine the use of AI, robotics, sensors, sleep trackers and infection testing. It will be designed so the technology doesn’t interfere with the patient’s everyday life, creating homes that are friendly to dementia sufferers.
Professor David Sharp, a neurologist at Imperial College London who is head of the centre said, “The vision for this centre is to use patient-centred technology to help people affected by dementia to live better and for longer in their own homes.”
How Will an EEG Help Dementia Patients?
The EEG (electroencephalogram) device they want to create will fit in the ear of a patient which will then monitor brain activity fluctuations with radar technology used to track movements within the home. The sensors will identify any changes in the behaviour of patients which have the potential to put them in hospital. Changes include a new walking pattern that might lead to a fall or increases in body temperature which is likely to suggest an infection.
The results from the monitoring can then be sent to doctors or nurses early if potential problems are arising. The monitoring can also give a holistic overview of a patient, as the data can help better understand the effect of drug treatments and patient wellbeing.
The technology will also be able to track sleep quality of the patient, which is hard to track in the home. Sleep disturbance is a huge problem for dementia patients. The centre wants to create motion sensors that can be fitted to beds to track sleep. The information gathered might improve the quality of sleep for patients.
The technology developed will be assessed by people living with dementia and their carers. This will ensure the technology is both practical and needed by patients.
Why Are Technological Solutions Needed?
With over 700,000 dementia sufferers in the UK and 850,000 expected by 2021, solutions need to be found to reduce the number of dementia patients going into hospitals and help improve their quality of life.
Sharp commented on dementia patients and hospital beds saying, “Latest figures suggest one in four hospital beds are occupied by people with dementia – and 20 percent of these admissions are due to preventable causes such as falls, dehydration and infections. The new technologies we develop will improve our ability to support people in their homes. They will allow us to intervene at an early stage, to prevent the crises that so often lead to hospital stays or a move to a care home. What’s more, we’ll be able to improve our understanding of dementia onset and progression.”
For dementia patients, a trip to or stay in a hospital can be a very stressful experience. If a doctor can monitor a patient remotely successfully, this will reduce the need for those trips to take place. A doctor can then react to anything concerning if they need to.
How Much Will The Technology Cost Patients?
While the centre hopes various off-the-shelf technologies will be available for free through the NHS, some sensors could cost as little as £10.
When Will The Centre Be Open?
The centre will open on 1st June 2019. However, scientists already involved in the project have developed storage technologies that are safe robust, so all personal data of patients is secure.
Any technology that can support dementia patients and their carers is welcomed. It will be interesting to see how the technology develops once the centre has opened. The importance of dementia care services within the home remains, an extra layer of technological support can truly create a ‘Healthy Home’.