Assistive technology to enhance safety and autonomy of dementia patients at home

Reto Stucki
Funding: Gottfried und Julia Bangerter-Rhyner-Stiftung

Most dementia patients have a strong desire to live autonomously in their known environment as long as possible. With cognitive decline, the ability to cope with activities of daily living (ADL) decreases, which leads to reduced autonomy and increased need for care. In combination with existing (i.e. Spitex) and new (i.e. ambulant old-age psychiatry) clinical and social caregiving approaches, assistive technology can help to improve care. In this project, we develop and evaluate a new assistive technology system that meets the specific needs of elderly patients with cognitive impairment. A key feature of the new system is that it works in the background and does not require active interaction between the system and the supported patient. It measures environmental data (e.g. light distribution, movement patterns) and uses this information to analyze specific behavior pattern to assess the patient’s ability to cope with ADL, and to predict short- and long-term risks. After preliminary field tests in the home of healthy volunteers, the system is currently measuring dementia patients. This project is funded in part by the Bangerter-Rhyner Foundation.

An example installation of the new assistive technology system in a two bedroom flat. Environmental data are acquired by sensors distributed in the rooms. The locations of the sensors are indicated with red circles.