IFTTT in Dementia Care?
Cooking up new recipes for dementia care
This week, from 15th – 21st May, Dementia Awareness Week takes place in the United Kingdom. With an ageing population that’s growing fast and a corresponding increase in the diagnoses of age-related conditions such as dementia, you would expect a lot of the discussion and debate to be around the management of this difficult and challenging condition.
So what fresh ideas have been brought to the table? Where should we be looking for innovative approaches to dementia care?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answers to age-old problems lie in cutting-edge technology. The internet-of-things is gathering momentum in the United States and increasingly over here. Having a smart home where appliances and gadgetry ‘talk’ to each other, results in smoothly managed homes, both cheaper to run and a pleasure to live in. Instead of a futuristic ideal, smart homes that enhance and improve the way we live our lives are becoming the norm.
But how can we use such intelligent technology to help us care better for the older and more vulnerable in society? Surely we can harness some of this beautifully simple tech in ways more useful than just for managing our lives on social media?
Assistive technology is already a highly developed area of social care with excellent equipment to aid, prompt, alert and monitor, making people’s lives easier, safer and more autonomous. The internet-of-things is rapidly extending the scope of assistive technology, so the kettle can email someone’s son if it hasn’t been boiled by 7.30 in the morning, or the hall light can text someone’s daughter if it’s switched on during the night. All excellent and exciting stuff. Our question is whether IFTTT (If This Then That) can add anything new, whether this ‘virtual switch’ can bring greater scope and functionality to assistive technology and whether, therefore, it has a contribution to make in dementia care.
IFTTT is an ingenious, free web and app-based service which uses a series of ‘recipes’ to link events. These can be tailored exactly to your requirements. Once residing exclusively within our smartphones and used principally for linking social media events and tasks, the internet of things unleashes IFTTT into our real worlds. If this happens (e.g. a Support Worker gets to within 100m of a Service User’s home) Then that will be triggered, for example an automated message will be sent to the Service User, reminding them of the scheduled care visit. Or, if someone puts the kettle on, an actuator opens the appropriate kitchen cupboard to remind the person where the teabags are. Such easily acquired intel can be vital in maintaining the independence of all older people but may have particular utility in enhancing independence for people with mild to moderate dementia, leaving them to live in a freer, more dignified and less ‘policed’ way.
There’s massive potential for using IFTTT in dementia care, linking an array of mobile apps, monitoring devices, internet-enabled home utilities, prompting and communication technology and even small electric motors and actuators. All we need to do is start cooking up the right IFTTT recipes.
So our challenge is this – can the IFTTT and dementia care communities use their considerable insight, creativity and expertise to create ‘recipes’ that add new functionality to the existing assistive technology, to help people with dementia and their families, lead better lives?
Please share your ideas and let’s start building up a fund of simple solutions for a difficult condition.