A pathfinder project has found that digital technology can make a big difference to the lives of people living with dementia as well as for their family and carers.
Alexa and iPad technology was introduced to support groups through the Leeds Dementia Pathfinder and were also given to carers to use at home. There was an amazingly positive impact on both dementia patients and their families. Reminders that were programmed into the devices like when to take medication, appointment and medication schedules made their lives easier and brought back a sense of control to patients.
Carers benefited immensely, as they were able to get online support, socialise, relax and have fun which greatly benefitted their mental health. They were able to get health information and manage medication.
The pathfinder was delivered by NHS Digital and formed part of the NHS’s Widening Digital Participation Programme which strived to make information and digital health services easily accessible to everyone, especially those who were most cut-off from society.
Besides loaning out digital technology to care homes and live-in carers, the Leeds Dementia Pathfinder also provided resources and trained 172 people who then became Digital Champions. Over the 12 month period, nearly 800 people were involved with the pathfinder including staff, carers, stakeholder and volunteers.
Just as the pathfinder finished, the equipment and lessons learned from the project were used to continue to assist during the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic which started in March.
Val Hewison, Chief Executive of Carers Leeds, said: “The Leeds Dementia Pathfinder had a really positive impact on carers’ lives. During the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and lockdown, it was more crucial than ever to keep in contact with carers of people with dementia. We used our experience and knowledge gained through the Leeds Dementia Pathfinder work to do this. We found creative approaches to digital technology to help carers who are socially isolated and by so doing, we improved that ever important connectivity with families and communities.
“Our work with 100% Digital Leeds means we are confident in encouraging and supporting carers of people with dementia to improve their quality of life, empowering and building on the wealth of strengths of carers that already exist. None of this would have been possible without the success of the Leeds Dementia Pathfinder project.”
Ian Phoenix, Director of Citizen Health Technology at NHS Digital said: “It is fantastic to hear that this pathfinder made such a huge difference to the lives of people with dementia and their carers, not only during the project but during the period afterwards when support was provided remotely using digital technology.
“The main aim of the Widening Digital Participation programme was to develop innovative ways to improve health and wellbeing which could then be rolled out more widely – and this is a great example of that. The Leeds Dementia Pathfinder shows what a critical role digital technology can play in tackling health inequalities.”