Kathy Wiles, Digital Dementia Advisor, was aiming to support 100 families in the city in the first two years but has recently hit the milestone of 50 families referred and receiving support.
My role is specifically to look at 'citizens technology' which are the things that you and I can readily buy and set up ourselves, not specialist equipment or things normally provided as Telecare. The referrals can be described under four headings:
- Keeping in touch
- Getting out and about
- Managing around the home
- Accessing the internet
Referrals typically come from my colleagues, or from the many professionals working to support people with dementia across Edinburgh but I have also received some self-referrals from relatives and carers.
I have worked with a range of technology, from iPads to Alexa Echo devices to mobile phones, smart lights and even clocks. All of which have previously tried and recommended by a person with lived experience of dementia. Most can be found on ADAM (About Digital And Me), a platform designed to help people with dementia find the right technology for them. So we know these things work very well.
One of the most important things I do when I talk to a family is to demystify the idea that technology is only for younger people or that a person with dementia 'won't manage'. One of our earliest referrals was for a 92 year old woman who hadn't seen her family in over a year. We agreed that an Echo Show could work really well so we set one up for her in her home. I had the privilege of being there when she video called for the first time. I also showed her how she could ask Alexa to play her favourite Opera music, which led to her reminiscing about her girlhood. The power of technology in action!
The most common enquiry is from families who would like a GPS for peace of mind when their loved one is out and about. Helping families to understand what a GPS can and can't do is probably the most challenging aspect of my role. However, as one carer told me, having a GPS for her husband had been life-changing. She had previously been concerned that she might lose him when she went out, and as a consequence had stopped taking him out with her. They are now back to going out as a couple as she is confident that she can find him if they are ever separated.
I'm really grateful to have received some lovely feedback from families after supporting them. I'm looking forward to the next 50 families and working with all the amazing people I know I will meet.
"Following Kathy's recommendations, we got two Echo devices for mum. She uses it to add things to her shopping list, as do her carers. We can video call, and I can put reminders in for her - please recommend this service to everyone!"