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58, Sheffield

Various forms of assistive technology help Richard’s mother, aged 92, to continue living in her own house following the onset of dementia.

“Mum is slightly blind and quite deaf. She had to have a fire alarm connected direct to the fire station, because she would put things on the cooker and then wander off, so quite often she’d set things on fire.

She’s also got a panic button to wear round her neck. When she pushes it, they’d phone her up. That’s all very well if she’s got her hearing aid in, but if she hasn’t, the phone can ring as loud as it likes and she won’t have a clue. So the social services put in a box – a speaker in the living room so they could talk directly to her if the alarm goes off.  But that’s in the living room, and she doesn’t hear it if she’s in the kitchen or upstairs. More often than not, she doesn’t hear it, so they have to send someone out to check she is OK.

They had 21 calls one night. And after that, they started ringing me up, saying, ‘Your mother’s got a problem, can you nip round?’ But I’m 200 miles away!

When I was there one Saturday, they rang up and said she’d pressed the panic button. But she’d done it by accident, maybe leaning on something or just fiddling with it. Apparently that happens a couple of times a month. I sometimes wonder if she does it on purpose because she gets lonely and she wants to see somebody.

Midnight walkabouts

She was also walking around the house at night. She’d get put to bed by her carers, and as soon as they’d gone she’d get up and wander around or go to the loo. She might get out of bed three or four times a night. Sometimes the carers found her in the morning. She goes to the toilet and falls asleep on it. Or she’d got to the kitchen and couldn’t remember where her bedroom was, so she just lay down and went to sleep on the floor.

So the social services put a pressure sensor on the bed. It’s timed so when she gets out of bed it switches on and if she’s not back by a certain time it sets off the alarm. At first it was set for quarter of an hour, but she was never back by then. Then they changed it to half and hour and now it’s 45 minutes. It has been really useful because they know when she’s got out of bed and not got back in.

"The social services give us the equipment but we have to pay rent for it and we pay per call out."

Helpful safeguard

The social services give us the equipment but we have to pay rent for it and we pay per call out. Every time they ring you, you get charged and you have to pay if they go round. But it’s better than not having that security, isn’t it? She likes having it and the button round her neck especially helps her feel safe. So that’s good."

More information

  • Dementia and other memory problems: a comprehensive guide if you would like to learn more about dementia.
  • Financing care at home: explains options for local authority funding and ways to fund care privately.
  • : details and examples of the kinds of assistive technologies that are available.

Page last reviewed: March 2015
Next review due: April 2019