THE DEMENTIA FRIENDLY Technology Charter, recently launched by Alzheimer’s Society, was produced to ensure that health and care practitioners and people with dementia and their carers are aware of the benefits that technology can bring and that the full range of technologies becomes more widely available to complement the personal care and support that people need. 

Let’s consider the two aims of the charter in a little more detail. The first aim is to enable every person with dementia to have the opportunity to benefit from technology appropriate to their needs. How do social care professionals make sure that all people who could benefit do indeed benefit from technology appropriate to their needs? 

Well one way is to make sure all your teams have had annual awareness training which indicates that you are working towards a holistic service to improve outcomes for individuals and create efficiencies in the system. This training should be based around story-telling, however it may also be useful to select champions in the team who are more familiar with the technical aspects and can support complex assessments. 

It’s important to consider the referral routes and where individuals will find information or receive advice about dementia friendly-technology. Accessible and easy-to-find information that lists where technology services are available in your local area with a link to this charter is a must. 

Finally the assessment process, and indeed the carers’ assessment, needs to consider the use of technology as part of a care package and where this can enhance independence and care support. 

The second aim is to enable and encourage best practice for those organisations commissioning and providing services to people with dementia. It’s important that commissioners of services develop a greater understanding of how technology can lead to good outcomes and incorporate the use of technology into their commissioning strategies. There are different delivery models available.

Your service may be delivered totally in-house or externally. Either way it will be important to skill up care teams to incorporate consideration of technology into assessments of need and care planning. An internal service will need to ensure that the monitoring centre and response teams are well trained in dementia, understand ethics and consent and can deal with changing needs. 

If, as in Hertfordshire, you outsource the service, you need to consider what key indicators you set in the contract to make sure you are getting the best possible service for people with dementia, and ensure there are clear protocols for re-evaluation of needs, response and meet quality standards. You will need to ensure that the right links are in place between assessment teams, care providers and telecare solutions.

So what evidence is out there to show that technology makes a difference? One particularly robust piece of evidence was carried out by the Scottish Centre for telehealth and telecare, Joint improvement team, and YHEC (York Health Economics Consortium). The Telecare for People with Dementia: Evaluation of Renfrewshire Project gave estimated net savings attributable to the 325 clients with dementia, over the five-year period, of over £2.8 million, equivalent to about £8,650 per client receiving a telecare system.

We all know that technology cannot and should not replace appropriate personal care, But it can go some way to helping people with dementia feel safer and carers manage and reduce worry. As the number of people needing care and support rises and budgets are squeezed we need to find different ways of supporting people. Technology has an important role here, offering new ways to support people as well as potentially reducing the costs of health and care provision by proving early warning to issues and helping to avoid emergency episodes

We must, of course, put the individual at the centre of any processes that aim to develop the right care or support for them. The dementia-friendly technology charter is an important document for social care teams to read and indeed to sign up to.

Sarah Pickup

Deputy Chief Executive of Hertfordshire County Council
Former President, ADASS