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How smart tech is helping people with dementia

People with Dementia using Technology

More than 50 million people are estimated to be suffering from dementia globally, while there is substantial investment being made in biomedical research, there is increasing interest in the area of how to manage dementia behaviors in the home.

The innovative use of technology is being explored as a way to address this challenge using Lidar (used in autonomous driving vehicles) — the spatial perception technology incorporated in self-driving cars — to help look after people at home.

The Care Research and Technology Centre in the UK is exploring Lidar sensors around the house or on the body to track vital signs such as heartbeat, blood pressure, and body temperature. These sensors will also provide information on gait, brain activity, and sleep.

LiDAR is a buzzy tech implemented by autonomous vehicle (AV) industry leaders to help self-driving cars “see” what’s going on around them. Here’s a quick look into how LiDAR works: The sensors use laser light pulses to create intricate images of movement and surroundings. In the context of home healthcare, caregivers can watch a real-time play-by-play of how their patients are faring: For example, they could see if they’re having trouble walking — a common sign of stroke — or whether they’ve fallen, which is the leading cause of injury for elderly folks.

The sensors are as accurate as a camera — but less invasive, which should put consumers’ privacy concerns at bay. With LiDAR, a caregiver can “watch” their patients, but the process is less Orwellian than camera use because the viewer can’t see an exact image of patients or their homes; they merely see clusters of shapes. Using cameras to monitor elderly patients is a hot-button issue in the senior caregiver community, and many view the practice as intrusive, Senior Housing News notes. This less invasive option might ease some privacy-related worries.

The bigger picture: The tech has the potential to streamline care delivery for a shrinking supply of caregivers, it is imperative to start training caregivers in the use of virtual monitoring technologies to deliver a better quality of care.