With the proliferation of smart home technologies that seem to have a solution to any potential condition in the home, how hard could it be to find smart home products for dementia? The answer CE Pro founding editor, Julie Jacobson found was: extremely.
The task was simple: find a thermostat for a loved one with dementia. But even after tapping into her industry expertise and the knowledge of experts she knew, she came up empty.
It would make sense if a dementia-related thermostat required some intricate features, but such is not usually the case. A clear display, easy to use and noticeable adjustment features, automatic heating/cooling changeover, backlighting and battery powered are the only requirements at the simplest level.
If it wasn’t in any of the mainstream stores, she thought, then maybe she would find it in some specialty store that sold a profusion of dementia related smart gear. There was no such store however.
When searching for a dementia-friendly clock earlier in the year she had been able to find one fairly easily, even finding multiple versions of design. Watches were a different story, however. And again, the request remained simple: find a watch that clearly showed the time, day and date. It didn’t matter if it was big, ugly or expensive. There was nothing, she found, that came close to matching even the basics.
Dementia-friendly microwave oven, telephone system, TV controller, music player? Nothing.
What Does This Mean for the Elderly?
It’s a strange void to come across. The “aging in place” moved had been slow to start, but over the years it had picked up steam considerably, with a rush of interest, activity and highly publicized accomplishments. A lot has been done to help seniors live at home longer with the essentials being covered, but that speaks nothing to devices and technology that help improve quality of life.
For those unaware of the many stages of dementia, there is a long period where the sufferer still had much of their wits about them but is otherwise incapable of doing everyday things. They might be able to hold intelligent conversations about worldly events, crack jokes like a pro, reminisce about people and happenings from decades ago, and recall with uncanny precision how long it’s been since the last time her daughter called.
But then in that same turn, they may struggle to hang up pants, turn on lights, follow a calendar, eat a meal, change the temperature, answer the phone or make a call.
And through all of it, they are aware of how things are changing around them, and that awareness with an inability to do anything about it turns into frustration either with themselves or people trying to help them.
It’s surprising and just as frustrating that the industry with answers to many of our more mundane issues have yet to develop a solution for this condition. Instead, the collective energy goes into keeping the elderly alive and at home for as long as possible. All that’s needed are simple controls and a network of pros that can install them.
Another version of this article previously appeared on CE Pro.