A pathfinder programme in Leeds has uncovered the benefits technology can bring to the health and wellbeing of people with dementia.
The Leeds Dementia Pathfinder programme provided technology such as iPads and Alexa devices to carers in care homes and hospitals wards as well as support groups.
Patients said the tools made them feel less isolated while carers highlighted practical benefits such as enabling them to manage medication or easily access health information.
One carer said it had “changed her and her dad’s life” after she used it for medication, exercise and appointment reminders.
Val Hewison, chief executive of Carers Leeds, said: “The Leeds Dementia Pathfinder had a really positive impact on carers’ lives. During the coronavirus crisis and lockdown, it was more crucial than ever to keep in contact with carers of people with dementia.
“We used our experience and knowledge gained through the Leeds Dementia Pathfinder work to do this. We found creative approaches to digital technology to help carers who are socially isolated and by so doing, we improved that ever important connectivity with families and communities.”
The pathfinder was part of the NHS’s Widening digital participation programme, delivered by NHS Digital, which aimed to make digital health services and information accessible to everyone.
About 800 people engaged with the pathfinder over 12 months, including people with dementia, carers, staff, volunteers and stakeholders. Among them were 172 people who trained as digital champions.
Ian Phoenix, director of citizen health technology at NHS Digital, said: “It is fantastic to hear that this pathfinder made such a huge difference to the lives of people with dementia and their carers, not only during the project but during the period afterwards when support was provided remotely using digital technology.
“The main aim of the Widening Digital Participation programme was to develop innovative ways to improve health and wellbeing which could then be rolled out more widely and this is a great example of that. The Leeds Dementia Pathfinder shows what a critical role digital technology can play in tackling health inequalities.”
Across the country, 20 pathfinders have been run in partnership with the social change charity Good Things Foundation to test new ways of helping people access digital tools to improve their health.
Technology in care homes was discussed in a recent edition of the Unplugged podcast. The podcast looks at the use of technology in connecting people with loved ones during the pandemic, as well as the importance of shared records and digital solutions in improving care offerings.