Dementia is a term we hear all too often. What is it? What does it mean? Who has it? How do we know its Dementia and not some other strange phenomenon of aging? Dementia starts with a negative impact on memory or mild cognitive impairment. This is normal as people age to lose some memory and really is just an annoyance at this point. When memory loss leads to deficits in communication and speech we are moving into mild dementia, followed by actual dementia; affecting a person’s ability to focus on a task and really concentrate. This continues with reasoning and judgment issues and then ends up with visual perception problems, and even hallucinations.
Mild Cognitive Impairment is noticeable to most and causes slight cognitive problems most notable a decline in memory and speech. People with MCI are more susceptible to progression into Alzheimer’s.
Does this mean that every person we know as they age will end up with Dementia, MCI or eventually Alzheimer’s? Well, it’s quite common, but not everyone ends up with it. It does affect about 10% of people over the age of 65.
What is so frustrating is that people as they age want to maintain their independence. Memory problems leading to someone taking the wrong doses of medication or making poor financial decisions or driving endlessly because they forget where they are going, are just a few of the issues facing the families and the patients as well. IONIS is a research project geared towards easing these issues for both patients and caregivers, formal and informal.
Although there are many solutions available on the market today that track dementia patients within their homes, and alert caregivers and family as to location; there are none as complete as IONIS. IONIS is a whole home, whole patient solution. Real time alerts provide much needed information between family or informal caretakers and formal caregivers. Quality of life information is more tangible and readily available with IONIS other than just heart rate and steps taken.
IONIS will be a solution for health monitoring, home automation, and personal agenda with reminders, alerts, caregiver administrative tools (e.g. administrative tools for several users, sensor settings) and profile. The extended platform integrates technologies and services that address dementia specific challenges and offer support to both caretakers and caregivers alike.
Within IONIS there are the following objectives:
- Support of people with dementia increasing confidence and feeling more positive not only indoor but outdoor as well.
- Avoiding isolation and helping people with dementia sustain an optimal level of activity and mobility for as long as possible, as well as enhance their individual sense of confidence, autonomy, competence, security and safety.
- Reduce stress and burden for informal caregivers through timely alerts issued by the platform or triggered by users.
- Ensure communication and information between informal caregivers and professionals to help the former in their care giving activities.
Photo by Marisa Howenstine on Unsplash
What about Europe and the Rest of the World?
Everyone is susceptible to Dementia. It plays no favorites. I could bore you with statistics right now but instead, see the chart below for those. Suffice it to say that the world over as a whole has a lot of Dementia cases, a lot of people suffering and in turn a lot of people taking care of them. In poorer parts of the world where there is little formal education about Dementia, the scales are likely to tip even further.
Dementia is not going away soon. Governments as well as healthcare programs need to pay attention to this segment of the population. They will need new medicines and further services than we are able to supply today. In turn, this means greater finances to pay for all of this.
* Projected numbers based on number for Europe from the 2015 World Alzheimer Report.
How do we care for people with Dementia?
It takes a village. Literally. At least three people per person are needed to care for one person with Dementia. That’s one on one care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In Europe, about 60% of people with Dementia live at home. Even living at home they require additional care, other than what family members can give. Because the care is so involved for these people, there is a lot of caregiver burnout. Caring for the Dementia patient is progressive. In the beginning, they need help doing tasks, brushing teeth, cooking meals, getting dressed, etc. As the disease progresses they need more and more care and it becomes more and more difficult to provide it as they are more and more resistant.
Caring for the Dementia patient is two-fold. You need to make sure they continue to do whatever activity they did before the Dementia diagnosis, like gardening or painting. Encouraging continued participation in activities is good for their continued sense of independence. Keeping up with the Dementia patient is exhausting. Caring for the Dementia patient can mean picking up on mundane tasks, like showing them how to brush their teeth. It may seem second nature to you, but to them it could be an uphill climb, so break it down, step by step and teach each step when the time is right.
Technology and Dementia
Technology in its current state is incomplete for the Dementia patient. Right now if they are home, we can use bracelets, watches and fitness bands connected to smart phones to give us an idea of what is going on. This sadly is just not enough. Currently IONIS has entered this market and seeks to fill the gaps with integrated and validated solutions for health monitoring, home automation, and personal agenda with reminders, alerts, caregiver administrative tools and profile. The IONIS platform will offer integration of services and technology to benefit both patients and caregivers.
We are talking about location services for indoor and outdoor. Dementia patients like to wander. It’s part of the disease. The IONIS developer team is working to make visiting relatives easier, going to the store and just being outside a pleasure again. A gateway and associated sensors placed at the patient’s home will collect data and manage information about their well-being. It will even track sleep!
A calendar with medication reminders ensures that medications are taken at the right time every time. Reducing stress for the caregiver is a main result because now they have reminders to rely on and acknowledgements to check.
What are they wearing?
Keeping track of the Dementia patient and using technology to do so have been helpful. For the patient, tracking little items using locator devices can help them keep track of things like their wallet, eyeglasses and keys. Small electronic tags, hardly noticeable help the patient keep their sense of independence and reduce their frustration.
Various communication aids like adapted smart phones, off the shelf smart phones and tablets all help patients keep in touch with family and caregivers. Many items are available but each functions individually and nothing is integrated. IONIS will fill that need, integrating these functions into one platform.
Where are we heading?
One feature of the IONIS System tracks indoor localization of patients by tracking sensors on frequently worn items, utilizing anchors placed in the living space that operate on ultra-wide band and Bluetooth low energy radio interfaces. As the sensors ping the anchors information is recorded and sent to the system controller that processes the pings and calculates things like time in location and time between locations.
The smart watch based indoor localization solution from IONIS is a lower-cost alternative than the tag feature. It doesn’t require anything special other than what is in most homes (i.e. WiFi access points). It works in conjunction with a smart watch and measures various sensors depending on availability. These are sensors like the Earth magnetic field sensor, WiFi and Blue tooth. Only one is required, but of course with more sensors, accuracy is increased. In conjunction with a database, that contains the floor plan and a radio map of the field strength a person’s location can be pinpointed. The map only has to be created once when the system is installed. The only time it needs to be recreated is when there is an architectural change or some other big change to interior rooms.
Many people are working on advances in the field. Many more should be. It will take a lot of research, help and work to get this off the ground and make worthwhile changes and advances that can help. IONIS is on the forefront of that change.