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60, Radnage

Jo’s mother is 95 and lives in her own home. She has dementia so Jo has looked into various forms of assistive technology for reassurance that her mother is OK.

“My mum is physically frail, but the real issue is that she has dementia and has been slowly declining over the last two or three years. I pay for carers to go in once a day and I phone her every morning to make sure she has taken her tablets and is OK, and then again each evening to check that she has eaten something.

But Mum can’t use the phone very easily. The only way I can get her to manage is by having a phone that doesn’t switch to answerphone because it has to ring long enough for her to hear it, get to it and work out which button to press.

Walkabout phone problems

We’ve got one static phone by the bed and three walkabout phones around the house, so Mum doesn’t have to walk far to answer it. She has to have a walkabout phone because I need to find out which room she is in and then tell her where to go take her pills or have her meal. But she struggles to push the buttons and I can’t find a walkabout phone without an answerphone with very simple big buttons.

Another problem is telesales people calling her to sell things - it seems charities are exempt from registering with preference services. A telephone system that limits the incoming calls has loads of features you don’t need and don’t want and that my mother couldn’t use anyway. Then she often doesn’t put the handset down on its stand, so the line doesn’t disconnect and she can’t hear the warning noise down the line. It doesn’t help that she frequently unplugs everything as well!  

Understanding dementia needs

I’ve looked at telecare products and I haven’t found them terribly helpful. For example, with a panic button the person has got to wear it or have it in the right place at the right time and understand how to use it. For patients with dementia, that is very hard.

"I gave up on using electric dossette boxes for pills and now use manually filled ones and I phone her up to tell her when to take her pills."

There are also dossette boxes for storing medication that ping open at a certain time of day. But the compartments only have room for one or two tablets and once-daily dosing, which isn’t enough for Mum’s needs. Also, if you’re not there when it pings open, or you’re hard of hearing, they’re not much use. I gave up on them and now use manually filled boxes and I phone her up to tell her when to take her pills.

Technology problems 

We looked at pressure mats that sit in the bed or chair and send an alert if the person gets up and doesn’t come back. It’s all very well having a call centre, but if it takes them an hour to send someone, then that’s no good and I can’t be available all the time. There are also sensors for mats and for doors, but I’m not sure how you deal with other people coming in and out.

This technology all relies on a functioning telephone line and when there is a fault, BT gives no priority to fixing it, which causes a real headache.

One possibility I may have to investigate is CCTV, so you can watch on the web – like they have in some nursing homes. It may come to the point where I need to ‘spy’ on my mother from my home so I know where she is and what she is doing! That would make my life easier."

More information

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