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Housing, technology and supporting people living with dementia (Part 2)

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Here, in the second of her two guest blogs in support of raising awareness of dementia, Shirley Ayres looks at some of the various apps, websites and therapies that can provide opportunities to reach out and support people in more exciting and radical ways.

It is interesting to note the increasing use of tablets which are much more intuitive to use than conventional computers and avoid the complexity of a keyboard, mouse and operating system which may deter older people from using technology. Tablets can be used for a whole range of activities such as accessing the internet, talking to family and friends online, using apps to paint pictures and create music using simple touch controls.

Digital reminiscence therapy gives a new dynamic to traditional methods of reminiscence which provide prompts, such as photos, music or familiar items to encourage people to talk about their memories and stimulate conversation. There is considerable evidence to support the benefits of reminiscence for older people, not just those living with dementia. Research shows that using reminiscence therapy also creates a stronger bond between carers and those cared for. Caregivers report a reduction in stress and improved knowledge of their loved ones whilst helping them to relive family moments and events.

Sporting Memories Network promotes and develops memories of sport with older fans to improve well being through conversation and reminiscence. Sports reminiscence provides the opportunity to document a person’s favourite sports events, teams and moments. Sporting memories provides an alternative focus for men who are reluctant to join in other group and reminiscence based activities. Sporting Memories are supported by an impressive range of star supporters from such diverse worlds as motor racing, football and cricket. Sporting Memories Network set an ambitious target on World Alzheimer's Day to share Bill's Story which eventually reached 12,500,000 people through the power of social media.

Reminiscing about gardening or developing a shared garden are common practices in many care homes. Flower garden is a digital extension of this activity, which allows the user to plant seeds, care for the plants, watch the flowers bloom, and create bouquets to share with friends and family. This is especially significant for participants who used to enjoy growing plants and are missing their former gardens. Whilst this isn’t an established care activity, it does bring a digital dimension to an evidenced and widespread practice.  Developing familiarity with a virtual flower garden may also lead to greater confidence to try out some of the tools designed specifically to support those in care.

Memory Apps for Dementia aims to give people with dementia the opportunity to unleash their creative potential. They provide a useful guide to recommended apps.

The Social Care Institute for Excellence Dementia Gateway offers an enormous range of helpful resources including information, films, activities and e-learning.

Digital technology is driving a revolution in care and the growing use of mobile devices, apps and social networks is becoming much more significant in enabling people to live more independent and fulfilling lives, irrespective of their health and care needs. Digital technologies provide opportunities to reach out and support people in more exciting and radical ways. Just imagine if every housing tenant had access to the internet and housing associations were able to use the power and potential of digital technology and social networks to develop new models of care for people living with dementia!

I do believe that we need to reassure people that technology will not isolate them further from their community connections. Digital technology can never replace human contact but the potential opportunities for enhancing the care and support of people living with dementia and their carers is immense.

This is a very brief overview of apps and tools available.  Please feel free to recommend additional digital resources that you have found helpful in supporting people living with dementia and their carers.Shirley Ayres

If you missed the first of Shirley's posts, click here to take a look.

Shirley works with innovative organisations to understand how digital engagement can build connected communities and promote digital technology to enhance care.

To keep up to date with her views you can follow her on Twitter, take a look at her Rebel Mouse page, read her blog and listen to her social care podcasts by following the links below.

Twitter: @shirleyayres
RebelMouse: https://www.rebelmouse.com/shirleyayres/
Blog: http://shirleyayres.wordpress.com
Disruptive Social Care podcasts: http://www.disruptivesocialcare.com

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