Dementia and its prevalence in HK
Dementia is a neurological disease due to the damage of brain cells. It causes loss of memory and deterioration of mental functions. The two main types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease and Vascular dementia. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80% of cases. It is due to physical changes in the brain, including a buildup of certain proteins and nerve damage. Vascular dementia accounts for about 10%, it is caused by blocked blood vessels and happened in strokes and other brain injuries.
Dementia is an age-related condition. In Hong Kong, the number of community-dwelling people with dementia aged 60 and above is estimated to increase from 90,000 in 2010 to 230,000 in 2036. The burden and costs of long term health and social care will be very substantial.
Most people will experience dementia in three stages. In stage one, they can still function independently. But they may encounter difficulties with problem solving, memory loss of recent events, getting lost and misplacing objects. In stage two, it becomes harder for them to perform regular daily activities, such as getting dressed and bathing. It is quite common for them to wake up at night, wandering in the house and looking for food. Upon stage three, they need full time daily assistance. They could not communicate with people, and eventually unable to walk, swallow and vulnerable to infection.
Smart home system for people with dementia
What is a smart home and how can it helps people with dementia? A smart home is a home installed with a set of connected sensors and devices. With this assisted living technology, people with dementia can live safely in their own home. The smart home system could monitor the changes in the environment in a non-obstructive way and alert the caregivers to take immediate action if there are potential dangers. Combining with some wearable biomedical devices, it can create a 24 hr/7 days health care solution for people with dementia.
With a smart home system in place, caregivers could let them do many daily tasks so that they feel respected and valued. In case they forget to turn off the stove, the temperature sensor and the motion sensor in the kitchen will detect the danger when the temperature continues to increase but nobody is in the kitchen. Likewise, the door sensor and motion sensor can detect abnormalities if they are inside the house but there is no activity for many hours during day time. The caregiver will receive alert message and need to call they to see whether anything has gone wrong. If they want to go outside and take a walk, wearing a small GPS tracker will help the caregivers to locate them in case they get lost and could not find the way home.
All in all, a smart home system is a cost-effective approach to help people with dementia to live safely in the own home. This can allow greater independence and better quality of life while reducing the stress of the caregivers.