Innovate Dementia Workshop

Today, Connected Liverpool traveled to The Indigo Training Centre at Maghull on the Ashworth site for the Innovate Dementia Workshop organised by Mersey Care NHS Trust and Open Labs.

Presently, 700,000 people in the UK suffer from dementia, one of the chronic or persistent disorders that causes the most anxiety. It costs the UK an estimated £17 billion to deal with dementia and provide its nationals with the necessary support. In the next 30 years, the number of people with dementia in the UK will double to 1.4 million, with the costs trebling to over £50 billion a year. Shocking figures that show the importance of finding remedies and innovative ways to assist people suffering from dementia in the best possible way.

Today’s Innovate Dementia Workshop was focused on just that, bringing academics, creative technologists, clinicians, and people living with dementia together to stimulate collaboration and develop solutions for everyday dementia-related problems. Some of the problems that were mentioned were the following:

  • difficulty in remembering what day it is
  • difficulty in realising whether it is 7 am or pm in winter
  • difficulty in locating objects in kitchen, bathroom, living room
  • difficulty in remembering when to use the different remotes
  • difficulty in taking the right medicine at the right time
  • difficulty in remembering how to do common things such as making tea or how to dress/undress

These were only a couple of the difficulties that the people living with dementia attending the workshop mentioned. Everyday actions that we perceive as normal but which form a huge obstacle for these people.

Technology was a big topic throughout the workshop. Remarkably, or perhaps not, only 2 of the people that were present and are suffering from dementia use technology. As one of them stated, “the elderly are not used to using technology, we haven’t been computerised”. They seem to be anxious to answer their phone, and experience a certain pressure when their mobile phone rings.

Additionally, it was mentioned that these people do not benefit from pasting ‘post notes’ on e.g. their medicine boxes to remember them to take them or on the fridge to remember them to eat. These post notes become part of the interior, anything static was therefore perceived as useless.

The workshop was a roundtable event. Each table received a different topic for discussion such as Technology, Diet & Exercise, Phones and Medicine. The academics, creative technologists, clinicians, and people living with dementia were mixed up around the different tables which led to enthusiastic and detailed discussions.

One of the major outcomes was the need to provide people that suffer from dementia with incentives. The only way to remember people to e.g. take their medicine is to e.g. enable their medicine box to tell them which medicine to take and when using voice control. The need for physical and mental exercise (gamification) was another major topic. Keeping people active both physically and mentally, proves to be important to prevent the disorder from getting increasingly worse.

Regarding technology, it was said that if the elderly would ever adopt technology, it would be because technology has been made simpler. Currently, it is too complicated discouraging them to use it.

A very good first brainstorm session around the topic of dementia. Many more will follow to narrow down some of today’s discussed ideas and to pilot them. All we can say for now: we are looking forward to the next Innovate Dementia Workshop.