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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds Well I think in terms of technology, there’s lots of work being done on simulations, just even using clips of family being played on a computer. Because there’s quite a lot of evidence now that suggests that when somebody is upset, if you play a DVD of the family talking about some things that happened in the past or some clips of favourite music with the family being involved, that reduces agitation. So there’s lot of things like that. There’s also material around to do with when people are not eating, if you Skype the family, the family can encourage the person to eat. Eat more, spend more time sitting at a table. And obviously there are more tactile simulations, which are coming through.

Skip to 1 minute and 10 seconds And these are really interesting stuff. And the mind boggles where they’ll end up.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 seconds I’ve become less interested in that, I must admit, because it’s very hard to replace people– that human contact and that touch. There’s work done Cohen Mansfield, which has looked at some really useful tools about how to reduce agitation. And what she’s found is there is a gradient of the efficacy of these things. And the great news is essentially inanimate things are OK, such as the use of dolls– they can help some people. Things which are more effective are things that are alive. So dogs seem to be more effective than dolls. And obviously people, friendly people who interact well, are more effective than animals. And the truth is, we are social beings.

Skip to 2 minutes and 11 seconds And most of us, most of the time, want to be listened to and do want to talk about whatever reality we’re in, and have our dignity maintained. So I think technology will happen. But I hope not to the expense of good human contact. And coming onto the market now is a lot of gaming technology. And people are looking towards that as one way to almost structure a conversation, something to talk about. That’s really useful. I mean I think we’ve done a lot of work into care homes.

Skip to 2 minutes and 49 seconds And it’s difficult for some of the staff to know how to talk and how to interact with people with dementia, partly because they don’t really get the training and partly, it’s a lot of task-focused work. So we do use dolls a lot. We do use teddy bears. We do use tools. But the truth is that they are vehicles for communication. So we have care homes that will have dolls. And actually the carestaff knit booties for the dolls. And the dolls also act as a conduit for conversation. The carers now will say, how’s your doll doing? And sometimes the person with dementia will confuse the doll as a real baby. And there are obviously difficulties with that.

Skip to 3 minutes and 46 seconds But what the doll does is structure the conversation, gives the person, the carer, something to talk about and interact through. So I think that is really important.

Communication technologies: a view from Dr Ian James

Dr Ian James shares his views about the usefulness of technologies to support communication.

He describes Cohen Mansfield’s gradient of efficacy, which ranks the usefulness of things that may act as prompts to conversations. This suggests:

  • inanimate objects can be useful
  • living creatures are better
  • human connection is best of all.

Ian views human connection as the most important of these.

But technologies that enhance person-to-person interaction - by aiding conversation topics (e.g. television, games), or by helping us to communicate at a distance (e.g. email, telephone, Skype) can have a role.

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