According to the World Health Organization (2012), dementia is the leading cause of disability among the elderly population, and a great challenge for health care and social services worldwide.
But, first and foremost, dementia disease is a challenge for those living with its consequences. Therefore it is necessary to develop and implement innovative solutions that promote health and wellbeing among people with dementia and those closely related to them. By creating opportunities for active and healthy ageing in spite of cognitive decline, the negative consequences of the disease can be diminished, and conditions for a more meaningful and hopeful everyday life for a great amount of people can be presented. People with dementia and those closely related are to be considered experts of what it means to live and handle a daily life with memory impairment, lack of orientation, agnosia, apraxia, and other associated problems. By involving them and learning from them about the subjective experience of dementia, the development of tailored health support solutions can be achieved.
The Swedish region of Norrbotten and Lulea University of Technology (LTU), Sweden, collaborate in innovative research and practices for active and healthy ageing for people with dementia and have been part of several innovative projects where digital technology has been tested and evaluated as a life-supporting tool. One example is the MemoryLane project that LTU has been involved in, a research and development project with the aim to develop and evaluate a digital photo diary to support the remembrance of, and conversation about, daily events between people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and their partners. The digital photo diary consisted of a wearable camera which automatically took photos every two minutes, an adapted smartphone which, through a GPS function, could annotate locations and dates of the photos, and a computer with an integrated touchscreen, with specially developed software to review, filter and sort photos. When the activities were over, the partner connected the camera and the smartphone to the computer to transfer the photos and the automatically logged information into the stationary device. The digital photo diary is used to support the conversation about recent and past events, and aimed at support remembrance and the common life story of the people with dementia and their partners.
In the FP7 project Dem@Care, LTU was responsible for the development and evaluation of a concept to improve the support of people with dementia who had problems with challenging behaviours (BPSD), such as wandering, agony and aggressiveness, by using information from sensors that could measure patterns of sleep and stress.
The concept has after the finalisation of the Dem@Care project been further developed and is evaluated in ongoing research. The results so far indicate that the information on patterns of sleep and stress/anxiety can promote health and wellbeing in people with dementia and BSPD (behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia) problems. By an improved assessment process the potential of supporting the wellbeing is increased. At all stages of dementia disease there is a possibility to find solutions for promoting health and wellbeing.