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Computing Technologies For Reflective, Creative Care of People with Dementia

By Neil Maiden, Sonali D'Souza, Sara Jones, Lars Müller, Lucia Pannese, Kristine Pitts, Michael Prilla, Kevin Pudney, Malcolm Rose, Ian Turner, Konstantinos Zachos

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 56 No. 11, Pages 60-67
10.1145/2500495

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Dementia is a condition related to aging, with symptoms ranging from memory loss to decreased reasoning and communication skills.8 The number of people with dementia was estimated in 2010 at 35 million worldwide, a figure expected to double by 2030.23 People with dementia in economies where attaining great age is increasingly the norm are cared for in residential homes by professional (though not highly paid) carers, typically women, often mothers and housewives, under pressure to balance care and administrative duties.12 Their work is often viewed as having low social status, contributing to high staff turnover and high numbers of inexperienced carers.24 Improving the quality of care in such an environment is a pressing concern.19

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In residential homes, digital technology could potentially improve the quality of care, reduce paperwork, and raise the social standing of care work. However, many care homes in the U.K. have at most one or two desktop computers for managing both their finances and their residents' records. Wireless networks are uncommon, and residents themselves only rarely have access to email or social media. Indeed, technology sometimes has been perceived as putting undo pressure on carers.17 Moreover, managers often lack the skills needed to introduce and advocate for digital technology,17 although the situation is changing as Internet access and mobile computing become commonplace. Recent initiatives (such as the U.K.'s Get Connected program, http://www.scie.org.uk/workforce/getconnected/index.asp) have further increased the technological readiness of homes. For the first time, a foundation for the use of digital technology in dementia care in residential homes is available.

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