The ‘Test Bed’ project by Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is exploring how technology can help people with dementia stay in their home for longer
Researchers want to use the ‘Internet of Things’ – where everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data – to help support people with dementia to live at home independently.
Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust have won funding to trial the use of sensors, wearable technology, trackers and health equipment to monitor people with dementia.
Researchers hope to recruit 700 people with dementia, of which half will have their homes fitted out with sensors on beds, fridges, kettles and in their bathrooms to monitor their routines. These will pick up if patients’ have a restless night’s sleep or have not opened the fridge door, which could be the early warning signs of problems.
The sensors will immediately alert a team of doctors or carers, who will decide whether to go round and check on the patient.
The Trust has received a £5.2million grant and will be overseen by a team of academics from the University of Surrey, Royal Holloway, University of London and the Alzheimer’s Society.
‘I’m really excited that we have been given this opportunity to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their families,’ said Fiona Edwards, Chief Executive of the NHS organisation.
‘With a growing elderly population likely to experience long-term physical and mental health conditions, innovative new technologies such as those we are trialling through the Internet of Things project will help more people to receive the support they need to live well in their own homes.
‘It is also about improving responsiveness of the health and care system, providing support at an earlier stage and reducing the amount of time people spend in hospital,’ she added.
Critics have pointed out that of this kind of technology needs to be used carefully, and not as a substitute for good quality care. However, the people running the project argue that the technology could be useful in helping to avoid hospital admissions.
Dr Ramin Nilforooshan, a dementia specialist at the NHS trust who is involved in the trial, said: ‘The technology is designed to alert us to any changes in behaviour or any changes in wellbeing that could signal someone is becoming unwell or that they are in trouble.
‘For example, they may be developing a urinary tract or lower respiratory infection. We could detect the early signs and symptoms of those infections and successfully treat them at home.’
He added: ‘We know people with dementia do not respond well to being in hospital and that their symptoms can worsen in this environment, so it is much better if we can treat them before they need to be admitted to hospital.’
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