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.

Some common mistakes made by the caregivers

Caring for someone with dementia is emotionally and physically demanding.  It causes great stress to the caregivers. Without proper support and guidance, it is easy for them to make the following mistakes, which may cause more damages to the mental functioning and psychological well-being of the dementia person.
1. Doing everything for the person
At the early stage of dementia, they can still perform many daily routines, such as cooking or cleaning the floor. However, when they forget to turn off the stove or other home appliances, the caregivers may stop them to do these daily routines because of the perceived dangers. Almost everything are done by the caregivers.
2. Not allowing them to go outside alone
The nightmare of many caregivers is that they may get lost outside and cannot find their way home. So, many caregivers do not allow them to go outside alone. This will cause tension in the relationship. And the lack of enough sunshine and social activities can also lead to depression and weakening of the body.
3. Not giving them the choice for activity
Some caregivers will decide what kind of activity is suitable for them without asking them. Some will use TV as a babysitter for all day. Others may watch them closely 24 hours and not giving them some alone time.

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.

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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.

Smart home system for Hong Kong

In the US and European countries, more and more smart home systems have been installed to provide home care and assisted living. For example, a smart home system created by Abilia in Norway uses a tablet connected with wireless sensors around the house to detect motion. If the door is opened or left open or if the stove is left on, the system alerts the patients and the caretakers of danger. The system also provides spoken reminders about daily tasks, such as when they need to take medicine.
Smart home in not a popular idea in Hong Kong. Many smart home system are expensive and used for home automation. Recognized the huge benefits of smart home system for people with dementia, Safe Concept and Tronico worked together and  developed a low cost smart home solution called Orion Smart Home Safety System.. This system was recently showcased in the 50+ Expo and soon be tested in pilot programs involving NGOs and health care professionals.