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‘Hidden’ sight loss and dementia tackled in technology campaign

The Scottish arm of the Royal National Institute of Blind People, RNIB Scotland, has signed-up to the Technology Charter for People Living with Dementia.

Originally launched in December 2015, the charter was developed by organisations including Alzheimer Scotland, NHS Scotland and the Scottish Government. It encourages greater use of technology in health and social care for people with dementia, and features six key values, including: “Routes and access to technology are ethical, equitable, simple, understandable and user-friendly.”

As well as promoting technology as an aid for people living with dementia and their carers, by signing the charter, RNIB Scotland are also hoping to raise awareness of ‘hidden’ sight loss.

June Neil – training and development manager for older people and complex needs at RNIB Scotland – told e-Access Bulletin that signs of sight loss can go unrecognised in some people living with dementia, as the symptoms are instead attributed to that condition.

Neil said: “Symptoms such as: not recognising faces, becoming disinterested in hobbies, or not going out because someone can’t see the numbers on buses – all of those things could be because of dementia or could be because of sight loss, and [the individual] is unable to communicate these changes.”

The charter lists a wide variety of benefits that technology can bring to people living with dementia, including: reducing isolation and increasing communication with others; supporting memory and decision-making; and, reducing the risk of accidents.

For example, the MindMate app (available at the following link:
http://eab.li/2p )
helps to increase independent living for people with dementia. The app provides reminders and gives advice about nutrition and exercise.

Sandra Shafii from Alzheimer Scotland told e-Access Bulletin that the Scottish Dementia Working Group recently used a Dementia Engagement and Empowerment Grant to purchase iPads. These will help individuals with dementia connect with each other, particularly in group meetings, where some members may live far away and not be able to travel.

Simplified interfaces on tablet computers and mobile devices are also helping to increase technology use in older people with dementia, Neil said, as are easy-to-use communication apps like FaceTime and Skype.

Websites like Dementia Circle (available at the following link:
http://eab.li/2i )
also test and list devices that can assist everyday living for people with dementia.

RNIB Scotland’s move to sign the Technology Charter supports a long-established partnership with Alzheimer Scotland. The two organisations have previously worked together on similar projects, writing a best practice document on how various technologies can support people living with both sight loss and dementia.

Additionally, digital skills organisation Tinder Foundation recently released a separate report, ‘Dementia and Digital’, based on research around a similar subject. Key findings of that report include the following: tablet computers are the most effective devices for delivering digital skills and health training for people with dementia; and, access to online resources increases wellbeing and confidence for people living with dementia.

Read Alzheimer Scotland’s Technology Charter as a PDF:
http://eab.li/2l .

Read Tinder Foundation’s ‘Dementia and Digital’ report as a PDF:
http://eab.li/2k .

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