Living Well with Dementia Pt.1
The first thing I will do if I get a dementia diagnosis is take a 360 degree virtual reality camera to my favourite places. I will film family, friends, parks, and beaches to create an immersive and personalized world filled with my favourite people and places. In the future, I will be able to visit this personalized, stimulating, and calming virtual world with help from my caregivers and virtual reality. Don’t believe me? Care homes in Calgary and East Sussex have already begun using this technology. The initial study from the Canadian University Health Network results look very promising and supports the applications for virtual reality use within healthcare.
Lessons Along the Way
50 million people across the globe are currently living with dementia and the World Health Organisation predicts that this will grow to 152 million by 2050. Not only do we have to learn to live with dementia, but we must learn to live well with the diagnosis. Fortunately, we are beginning to understand more about the disease as well as its affects and root causes. There is unlikely to be a single breakthrough moment- the scientific consensus is that given the range of illnesses that are covered by this umbrella term there will need to be different mixtures of treatments. As stated by Bart De Strooper, Leader of UK Dementia Research Unit (DRI), “We will see that type of personal medicine where you understand very well the progress of the disease and then you have the tools to interfere at different stages in the most appropriate way”.
People diagnosed with dementia are becoming ambassadors for information groups such as George Rook, a dementia-diagnosed speaker at GovConnect’s Dementia 2020 Conference, is a member of Dementia UK’s Lived Experience Advisory Panel, and blogger as well. His activities challenge the perceptions of what people with dementia are capable of and also reflect the reality that many of us will need to learn to live better with this condition, for ourselves or for our loved ones. Rook’s efforts are inspiring and prove that our attitudes and expectations of what people living with dementia are capable of needs to change too.
Tools for Better Living
Technology is on our side in this case. Existing programs such as GPS tracking devices can be used by dementia sufferers to help them find their way home. For people and families living with dementia there are currently many apps and devices which can be used at home that monitor hydration, breathing, and movement so we can assist people living with dementia remotely and raise the alert if there is cause for concern.
We are on the brink of change in discovering how to live better with dementia, and technology should certainly be considered as part of the answer. What is the other part? Stay tuned for part two of this series to learn more.
Wendy de Silva has over 25 years experience as a healthcare architect and has developed a particular expertise in designing mental health facilities and other buildings which support community well being. She enjoys developing, researching and sharing information on best practice in this field with others and has spoken on the subject at national and international conferences. Projects Wendy has worked on have been recognised with awards including the BBH Grand Prix, Best Mental Health Project, and the DIMHN project of the Year Award.