Skip to 0 minutes and 7 secondsWell 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 secondsAnd these are really interesting stuff. And the mind boggles where they'll end up.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 secondsI'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 secondsAnd 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 secondsAnd 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 secondsBut 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.

A view from Ian James

As we learned in Week 2, there are a number of channels we use to communicate - face to face, written messages, spoken words, gestures and signs.

Here, Dr Ian James shares his views about the usefulness of different devices or stimulation therapies that might be used as a vehicle to improve communication with people living with dementia. He talks about Cohen Mansfield’s gradient of efficacy, that is, a ranking of 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. There are a range of technologies that are intended to 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 you recall some challenges of technology you or the people you care for have faced?

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Dementia Care: Staying Connected and Living Well

Newcastle University

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: