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Assistive Technology and ICT

In this article, we'll assess how assistive technology and general ICT can support older persons or people with disabilities perform everyday tasks.
Digital clocks showing time of day and tablet for personal entertainment and communication
Photo Design Features
  • Digital clocks for orientating a person to time of day, and day of the week.
  • Personal technology, such as an tablet for entertainment and/or to facilitate communication.

Assistive Technology
Assistive technology (AT) can be defined as products, equipment or systems aimed at supporting an older person or a person with a disability to undertake tasks they would otherwise find difficult or impossible. AT is also designed to help staff and accompanying persons support a patient.

Many hospitals will use ceiling or wall mounted mechanical hoists for patient lifting, or transfer to toilets or baths. While low-low beds, or low-level beds that can be lowered to the ground, are sometimes used when there is a concern that patients may fall or climb out of their bed and hurt themselves. Like a standard profiling bed these beds can be adjusted to as low as 23cm from the ground. The appropriate use of side rails to the bed, or floor safety mats also offer some protection in this regard.

In the context of electronic equipment or systems, AT can range from a large button mobile phone, or photo ID phone, to more complex in-room smart technology. For instance, Environmental Control Units (ECUs) can be used within an inpatient room to allow the patient or accompanying person to control various items such as the lights or TV. They can also be linked to window, or curtain openers, and therefore enable a person who is frail or is living with mobility difficulty to independently control their environment.

Ambient Assisted Living (AAL)
AAL has a health and well-being focus and refers to embedded ICT to create more intelligent environments to provide assistance, monitoring and care for everyday living for older people. While AAL is typically focuses on enabling ICT in the home environment, there are also applications that can be considered in the acute settings.

Digital day clocks are a simple example of effective AAL technology that can be beneficial in orienting a person about the time of day, day of the week, or the month. An Enuresis Sensor placed in a bed and connected to a staff monitoring system might be used to support a person with dementia who may be incontinent. An Enuresis Sensor detects moisture in the bed and alerts the relevant staff member.

The various assistive technologies described herein are some examples of a wide range of assistive technologies which are increasingly being used as part of an integrated approach to support people with dementia. However, as stated previously, it is important that technology is introduced ethically, so that the rights and preferences of people with dementia are respected. Technology should never be used as a substitute for human care, but rather should be used to complement personal care services.

General ICT and entertainment
The use of tablets, including the use of headphones can help with entertainment and communication. With this in mind, it is important to ensure high-quality WIFI connection is available throughout the hospital. Furthermore, it is important to encourage patients to bring their ICTs to the hospital, rather to expect the hospital to supply them.

Automated check-in
Technology can be used to facilitate ease of checking in to appointments in OPD through the use of automated check-ins. Where they are used, ensure they are usable and accessible. However, it is important to recognize that the automated check-ins may present difficulties for an older person, a person with a mild cognitive impairment, as well as non-native English speakers. In certain instances, make sure there is a by-pass procedure, one that allows patients and accompanying persons to check-in in person at reception.

Dementia Friendly Design Guidance

  • Ensure the building structure and materials facilitate WiFi technologies.
  • Where permissible, allow a patient to bring and use technologies (such as smart phones and tablets) while in hospital.
  • Provide headphones to facilitate the use of personal technologies (in order to reduce noise, especially in multi-bed wards).
  • Facilitate ease of checking in to hospital appointments in OPD through the use of automated check-ins. Where they are used, ensure they are usable and accessible. Furthermore, in certain instances, make sure there is a by-pass procedure, one that allows patients and accompanying persons to check-in in person at reception of the clinic they are attending.

For more information on the topics covered in this step, refer to Part B: Design Guidelines, Section 7: Technology available to download below.

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Dementia Inclusive Hospitals from a Universal Design Approach

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