Shows: 09.15.08

Monday mornings I'm on the air sharing more stories about how people are living better through computers. I'll tuck field notes from those shows right here. You'll also be able to dig into the archives to explore previous shows as I determine how best to share some of the highlights of the past 9 year's worth of adventures.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Computer-Assisted Care in Nursing Homes: Intel Improves Safety and Quality of Life for Residents with Dementia

As our parents age we are often faced with difficult decisions about how to care for them, especially when challenges like Alzheimer's Disease set it. Sometimes the decision includes choosing alternate care in a nursing home or other assisted living facility. Some people feel guilt over the choice, and sometimes even fear, so it's comforting to know that computers have offered an innovative new way to improve the quality of life for the people we love.

There are a lot of ways in which computers can make our lives better, and one of them arrived as a gift when technology titan, Intel, helped provide a nursing home in Ireland with an effective way of keeping patients with dementia safer and happier.

If you've interacted with the local Hospice, you may already be familiar with the benefits of their "Snoozelen Room" for palliative care, a space equipped with calming, therapeutic resources to help ease the pain and stress of people living with a terminal illness. "Snoozelen" or "Snoezelen" rooms, developed in the Netherlands in the 70's, have also been used to help manage the care of people with mental illness, autism, Down Syndrome and also elderly persons suffering from dementia. The RyeVale Nursing Home in Leixlip Ireland is one of the places that has found the Snoozelen approach to be of real benefit for the latter.

Caregivers interacting with people suffering with Alzheimer's are often faced with problems with communication, wandering and aggression. These issues also often lead to decreased family visits because of the frustration that results from difficulty communicating and increased agitation. Thanks to a little help from computer giant Intel's Community grants program, RyeVale Nursing Home was able to set up a computer network that allowed nurses to not only monitor patients through wireless, wearable technology, but also to assist them through "smart rooms" that were capable of storing patient profiles and responding to agitation or aggression by instantly playing a favourite song or reminding the resident of something they once loved to do. This has provided an easy and effective means of changing a patient's mood and making them more responsive to treatment, and has reduced some of the barriers families experienced when visiting loved ones.

The grant also provided security technology that was mounted on doors and windows to protect patients with dementia from wandering away from the facility unnoticed. In addition, Intel provided the nursing home with a robust medical record storage, sharing and maintenance platform, and even an "e–community", providing digital entertainment, online shopping and IP-based telephony for residents.

While all of this may sound a little bit too "big brother" for some people's tastes, the monitoring and smart rooms program has been successful in creating a safer, happier environment that has improved the quality of life for RyeVale residents, and offers an interesting model for other assisted-living facilities to consider. Given the rapid emergence of powerful personal computing technologies and the relatively inexpensive nature of multimedia and wireless technologies, this may in fact be a set of solutions that will be available to us as caregivers in our own homes sooner rather than later.

Related Links:

Other Helpful Resources:

Alzheimer's Alzheimers dementia "nursing home" Ireland Snoozelen Snoezelen caregiver nursing Intel community security hospice grants


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