• Technology: Is it a Fit for Dementia Care?

    The video camera on the wall of Swan Lake Manor is recording. All the film sees is a lone person, Lydia, sitting in a wheelchair in the long corridor. Her shoulders are hunched and her head is covered with a brightly colored scarf. This camera is meant to see all. And, this early Saturday morning, it did. The clock on the wall says 7:31 AM. Screams are heard echoing down the long hall way of Swan Lake Manor, “Help me, help me,” screams Lydia as she inches her wheelchair painfully, slowly forward.

    Lydia has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, she lives in the moment, and at this moment Lydia’s reality is that she is back at home in Russia and it is time to prepare breakfast for her family. At Swan Lake Manor there is technology in place to prevent Lydia from eloping; there is technology in place to prevent falls from the bed, and to monitor her bed wetting, and restraint belts on Lydia’s wheelchair to keep her buckled up and safe. However, no one has time to listen to Lydia.

    The question is: “Is technology a fit for dementia care?”

    From an article in the New York Times: “nursing home eliminates anything potentially considered restraining, from deep–seated wheelchairs that hinders standing. Rather than utilizing technology to monitor bed wetting, this nursing home encourages the care staff to take residents to the toilet to preserve feelings of independence. Some staff members resisted, but now they like it, because it saves time and difficult diaper changes.”

    In another study group members were asked about wandering technologies. They all agreed that “no technology could replace the caregiver but only support them.”

    The dichotomy we are facing in dementia care today appears to revolve around time – there simply isn’t enough of it. Technology is designed to save care partners time. Persons with dementia require time.

    No one works harder than those individuals caring for persons with dementia. In Lydia’s case study, her care partners will reveal that in the busy AM care time, they simply cannot spend time with Lydia to understand her reality, and that technology is the preferential treatment. Research suggests that creating positive emotional experiences for Alzheimer’s patients diminishes distress and behavior problems. (New York Times, December 31, 2010)

    The nurse is consumed with her work at the nurse’s station, barely glancing up. She calmly replies, “Oh, that’s just Lydia telling us she wants us to push her wheelchair to the dining room for breakfast. She’s always like that, don’t worry”.

    The appealing shouts are still heard down the long, empty corridor, “Help, help, help me”! shouts Lydia. The clock goes on ticking at Swan Lake Manor; it is now 8:06 and breakfast will be served at 9 AM. (excerpt from “Wheelchair Ballet”, The Living Dementia Case–Study Approach, deGeest, 2007)

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