Dementia & Technology: Supporting care delivery and ageing in place

Last month, we hosted a webinar on an important topic in dementia: the application of technology to enhance care and support people to age in place. We had three fantastic speakers join us for the occasion, who showed us how everyday technology in the community can prove challenging to people with dementia; how online platforms may help clinicians and care staff support people with dementia and their carers during Covid-19; and how a Memories Café in Singapore turned virtual during the pandemic. You can read more about each of our speakers and their work below, and you can find the link to their talks here.

Sarah Wallcook: What are dementia-friendly technological environments internationally? Inter-country comparisons of the challenge of everyday technologies.

It has been said that if the community is friendly for people with dementia, then it is friendly for everyone. And everyday technologies are an increasingly frequent and ever-changing presence, friendly or otherwise, in our communities. For example, travel ticket machines may no longer take cash, they may require internet enabled payments via mobile, or to input information i.e. a vehicle number plate. Such changes to technologies found and used outside home can increase convenience for some people, but may present challenges to others, most especially to people living with the cognitive consequences of dementia.

In this talk, I will share with you the findings from one of my PhD research studies, which aimed to make inter-country comparisons of the challenge presented by outside home everyday technologies internationally. 315 participants with and without dementia were involved in this study from Sweden, the USA and England. The differences in challenges that emerged from these three country contexts, which are often considered culturally quite similar, presented an opportunity to learn about variation in the usability of public space and portable ETs. While specific design features of technologies can be one element to learn from, there is also much to learn by considering societal habits and preferences more broadly, and the wider physical siting of the ET. Taking a broader view could lead to spaces that are more universally designed, where the most inclusive technological interface has been procured. Where variations remain; people could be signposted to the most useable option for them.

Kenny Chui: “Small City but Big Challenge!” – the Opportunity and Threat of Using Online Platforms for People with Dementia and Their Family Caregivers during COVID-19.

Jockey Club Centre for Positive Ageing launched a post-diagnostic support programme for people with mild cognitive impairment and a mild level of dementia from 2019. The aim is to promote “early detection, early diagnosis and early intervention” with the person-centred care and empowerment approach. The targets are 50 years old or above without medical diagnosis or with a diagnosis within a year. The participants firstly complete a cognitive screening test through the apps and standardized assessments are offered to check with the details. Then, the trained medical doctors in this programme receive referrals and make a diagnosis after reviewing the situations of the participants. Lastly, eight weeks of interventions with empowerment and peer support will be provided to the participants while 24 weeks of intervention with coaching and emotional support will be provided to the family caregivers. However, starting from the political incidents in June 2019 to the outbreak of COVID-19 until Aug 2020 in Hong Kong, the traditional face-to-face and group works were suspended which aroused the needs of using online platforms to deliver the services, such as Facebook live, WhatsApp, facetime, zoom etc. At the same time, the project team faced a significant challenge of how to coordinate with the participants with cognitive impairment and their caregivers. The participants were mainly 70-85 years old who have had relatively low education and lack resources because of poverty in Hong Kong. Most of them are not familiar with the use of technological devices or basic set-up, like Wifi systems. On one hand, we had to adjust the content of interventions for both participants and their family caregivers which are fit for online mode; on the other hand, we had to prepare the in-home training materials, screen-shot guidelines, data sim cards, video clips, etc. Moreover, the readiness and quality assurance of staff was one of the concerns which were needed to have immediate training and evaluation each time. How do we reflect the change of delivery model through technological support and what is the implication to the professionals or operators in dementia care services Hong Kong? Let us discuss.

Rachel Lim: Making Memories Café available online

Memories Café is a programme by Alzheimer’s Disease Association, Singapore. It is a 2-hour social programme conducted every Saturday for Persons living with Dementia and their Caregivers. Memories Café is conducted at various café and restaurants all over the country, where participants get involved in different forms of performing arts activities such as sing-alongs, music and movements and drumming. Afterwards, participants are encouraged to socialise and mingle with each other as well as customers patronising the café while enjoying a meal. For 6 years and going, Memories Café has continuously attracted many new participants as well as returning participants to sign up every week; Memories Café has been part of their routine. Alas, this routine has been disrupted with the recent pandemic. Hence, in our attempt to continue providing joy and some form of normality to our participants amidst this chaos, Memories Café went virtual. Memories Café is now streamed live via YouTube, every Saturday, 10:30am to 11:30am (GMT+8). Despite the lack of social interactions and the element of food, the initiative has been well received.

YouTube Link:

Sarah Wallcook is an occupational therapist and PhD student in the CACTUS research group (Cognitive Accessibility and Technology Use when ageing at home and Society) at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden. She is a proud alumnus of the Marie Sklodowska Curie fellowship funded through Horizon 2020 ITN; the Interdisciplinary Network for Dementia Using Current Technology (INDUCT). As technology changes and becomes ever more prevalent in society, her studies investigate how technology acts as both a barrier and facilitator in the daily lives of older adults living with and without dementia in Sweden, the UK. and the USA. She has a particular interest in ensuring the involvement of people living with dementia across the whole research process (PPI) and within a rural context.

Sarah originally graduated from the University of Manchester, UK in music in 2004 and completed her masters in occupational therapy at the University of Cumbria, UK in 2016. She has enjoyed a diverse career in community-based project management, education, practice, performance, and now research.

Dr. Chui is the Chief Training Consultant of Jockey Club Centre for Positive Ageing (JCCPA) in Hong Kong, managed by the Faculty of Medicine, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). He received his PhD in Social Welfare from CUHK and was appointed as an honorary lecturer in the University of Stirling, United Kingdom. He got three Masters degrees in Clinical Gerontology from CUHK, Dementia Studies from the University of Stirling and Social Service Management from CUHK respectively. Dr. Chui was also an appointed specialist of the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications. He was awarded as the Teacher of the Year in 2016 from the Faculty of Medicine, CUHK. He was the 28th Outstanding Social Worker in Hong Kong and the Winner of Social Impact Award granted by Hong Kong British Council. As a dementia care practitioner, he is dedicated to the needs of people with dementia and their families for over 15 years. He covers the areas of academic research, programme curriculum, consultative training, public education, project development and management and advocacy. He designs and provides training to local and overseas organizations such as the HKSAR Food and Health Bureau, Social Welfare Department, Hong Kong Immigration Department, The Hospital Authority, The Hong Kong Council of Social Service, CLP Power Hong Kong Limited, MTR, Bank of China, various NGOs, Consulates of the Philippines and Indonesia. He is also being invited to give guest lectures for different tertiary institutions. Dr. Chui made presentations in various international dementia conferences for promoting dementia-friendly languages and the voice of people with dementia. He is the co-director of the Advanced Diploma Programme in Dementia Care in CUHK. He also works with JCCPA to uplift Hong Kong’s dementia service. He developed and launched a three-year Best Practice in Dementia Care Programme between 2016 and 2019 in collaboration with the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC) of the University of Stirling, UK. This programme is a large-scale project amongst the Chinese communities to build staff capacity for dementia care across aged care services through a systematic and extensive manner.

Rachel Lim is a Programme Executive at Alzheimer’s Disease Association, Singapore where she runs the Memories Café programme. She is also a member of the World Young Leaders in Dementia (WYLD).