Frequently asked questions


What is assistive technology?

Assistive technology is any device or system that can assist people who have difficulties in carrying out everyday activities. This website provides information on assistive technology devices that help people with difficulties arising from memory problems, including Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. For more information please see our ‘What do we mean by assistive technology’ page.

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What is telecare?

Telecare is used to describe sensors (for example flood, gas, smoke or fall detectors) that automatically send a signal via a base unit connected to a telephone line (‘tele’) to a carer, community alarm or monitoring service and which can call for assistance (‘care’) when it is needed. Telecare is often used to help support people living at home on their own to provide ‘care at a distance’. If you are interested in telecare solutions you need to contact your local telecare provider. For more information on telecare please see our ‘What do we mean by assistive technology’ page.

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Where can I get it from?

You can buy many simple assistive technology devices relatively cheaply from nation-wide stores or specialist suppliers. However, we always recommend that you first seek the advice of a health or social care professional if you are thinking about using assistive technology of any kind.

You may also be able to obtain assistive technology devices and telecare services via your local health, social care services or housing provider. For further information please see our ‘Obtaining assistive technology’ page.

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Who installs and maintains it?

Many ‘stand alone’ devices are mains or battery operated and do not have any installation requirements. However, batteries will need to be tested and replaced on a periodic basis or when there is a battery-low alert.

Other assistive technology devices such as gas detectors and shut-off valves are more technical and need to be installed by a qualified person e.g. an electrician, corgi registered gas fitter or other technician. For shut-off devices arrangements will also need to be made for reconnecting the supply. We recommend that you check the cost of installation and re-connection before purchasing such devices, as this may be more than the cost of the equipment itself.

If health, social or housing services are providing you with assistive technology or telecare they will arrange for it to be installed, tested and maintained.

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How do I know what is best for me?

We always recommend that you first seek the advice of a health or social care professional if you are thinking about using assistive technology of any kind. For further information please see our ‘Obtaining assistive technology’ page.

A few local authorities and housing agencies have set up demonstration sites to provide people with opportunities to see and try assistive technology devices and get information and advice from professional staff about what might suit them best. To find out if there are any demonstration sites in your area, please contact your local authority social care services or housing department .

Disabled and Independent Living Centres also provide information and advice on general assistive equipment and can demonstrate a variety of products, some of which may be helpful for people with dementia.

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What do I do with equipment when I no longer need it?

If you have bought an item of equipment with your own money it belongs to you. If health or social care services have provided you with equipment they will review your needs on a regular basis. If an item of equipment is no longer needed they may return it to the equipment store so that it can be re-used.

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What is Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition that causes the destruction of brain cells. It is the most common cause of dementia, affecting over 500,000 people in the UK. Age is the biggest risk factor for dementia, which affects 1 in 20 of people over the age of 60 and 1 in 5 people over the age of 80. It can however occur in younger adults and there are approximately 18,000 people under the age of 65 with dementia in the UK.

Symptoms in the early stages of Alzheimer's often include difficulties with memory and word-finding. As the condition progresses people find it increasingly difficult to maintain daily living tasks and are likely to require increasing amounts of support and help.

For further information on Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and a confidential helpline, you may wish to contact the Alzheimer’s Society.

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What is dementia?

Dementia is the term given to describe people who have a condition such as Alzheimer’s disease that is causing progressive damage to brain cells. This damage leads to a range of symptoms including memory loss, and difficulties in thinking, orientation, comprehension, calculation, learning capacity, language, and judgement.

There are over a 100 forms of dementia. After Alzheimer's disease, the most common causes are vascular dementia and dementia with Lewy Bodies. For further information on Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, free help cards and a confidential helpline, you may wish to contact the Alzheimer’s Society. For additional information and support for carers of people with the rarer dementias (including Pick's disease and Fronto-temporal lobe dementia) you might like to contact the Picks Disease Support Group.

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What is person centred care?

Person centred care is widely recognised as a common set of principles and values that underpin best practice in dementia care. The NICE dementia guidelines identifies these as:

  • The human value of people with dementia, regardless of age or cognitive impairment, and those who care for them
  • The individuality of people with dementia, with their unique personality and life experiences among the influences on their response to the dementia
  • The importance of the perspective of the person with dementia
  • The importance of relationships and interactions with others to the person with dementia, and their potential for well-being

Person centred and relationship centred values should always underpin any assessment that may (or may not) lead to the application of assisitive technology to meet a person’s needs.

This means recognising the uniqueness of each individual and each individual situation; listening to the person with dementia and identifying their needs and wishes; understanding the person, their personality, life history and other factors that might influence a person and their situation; trying to “view” the person’s unique perspective; and facilitating and supporting important relationships.

A central component of the person centred perspective is that people with dementia are influenced by the actions and inactions of others and the environment around them. We need to be aware therefore that technology (as with any other interaction or aspect of care) has both the potential to enable or further disable people with dementia.

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