Living a more harmonious life with dementia: an EU-focused Telehealth in action
Frederikshavn Municipality, Denmark
Aalborg University, Denmark
ISISEMD: an EU-funded Telehealth pilot program
ISISEMD, which stands for “Intelligent System for Independent living and Self-care of seniors with cognitive problems or Mild Dementia,” is an international pilot project, co-funded by the European Commission within the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme–Policy Support Program (CIP-PSP). The purpose of the project is to create affordable, user-friendly and demand-driven intelligent services to help the elderly with self-care and to reduce the care stress from the informal caregivers and to help the formal caregivers in their jobs. In the project, there are regional partners from Denmark, Finland, Ireland and Greece who have been testing the services in real-life conditions for a period of one year. Hence, in each country, the ISISEMD services are being evaluated continuously in order to accommodate the needs for an increased quality of life among users.
How the ISISEMD Telehealth program integrates technology and care
ISISEMD is supported by a combination of a touch-screen computer (called a Carebox), home safety sensors and reminders for the elderly in the form of alarms and notifications which support caregivers in their daily interaction with the elderly with mild dementia. The ISISEMD Carebox is a computer with a touch screen interface that gathers and displays information that is important to the older adult during their daily activities. The Carebox displays reminders to take medications, when a nurse will visit, and incorporates activities for mental stimulation including pictures from the person’s life, called a memory lane service –consisting of a slide show with personal pictures. The Carebox enables the elderly to send a request for help or a contact a family member or caregiver by text message or email when help is needed. This service creates an enhanced communication with and to relatives and neighbors (referred to as “informal caregivers”) and care providers (“formal caregivers”) and creates a safer everyday life for both users. From the care providers’ perspectives, the ISISEMD Carebox system is beneficial for the elderly for fostering independence, helping them to create structure of the day and feeling safer. Relatives also experience the impact of the system as it saves money and time in their daily interactions.
In addition, a simple GPS device (called a Lommy) ensures person’s safety outside the home. Lommy services allow for the caregivers to pin-point the location of the person with dementia through a computer program. Some caregivers check the location before driving to the home for a visit, to see if the elderly is home while others may simply have it as a back-up safety precaution in case of a distressing situation.
Effective collaboration between caregivers and patients with ISISEMD’s services
The integrated care of ISISEMD’S services is recognized in the primary care towards relatives. In this way, there is a transfer of care tasks from social care providers to informal care providers, such as family. In this connection, the family caregivers are provided with technological tools to integrate in their strategies for addressing the disease. This also increases the dignity of the elderly people, as personal problems are discussed only in the family and are not disclosed to an external person. As one person has explained, “Now I feel safer because I know that I can get in touch with my relatives quickly when it is needed.”
ISISEMD’s telecare services contribute to the safety, security and to the independency of the elderly with mild dementia. Results from an intermediate evaluation of the functionality and impact of ISISEMD’s services show that elderly people with mild dementia and their informal care providers are satisfied with the system implemented into their homes, acknowledging the positive impact. Informal care providers have noticed a difference from before they had the ISISEMD system. ISISEMD’s services provide for reassurance and peace of mind, as well as a reduction of care stress and increased quality of life of the family caregivers as they are given more freedom for their personal life and interests.
Among the elderly people, the Lommy device and home safety services such as fire alarm, cooking monitor and the memory lane service are those most appreciated. The Lommy device has had very practical benefits for family members as well, as one family caregiver describes: “I can observe my mother through the portal when she goes for a walk outdoors as she carries the Lommy device. Now I am not anxious at all because if she gets confused and cannot find her way home, she can press the help button on the Lommy and then we can follow her position as visualized on the map and help.”
Depending on the country, some services are more attractive than others, and thus program features are tailored. For instance, due to the colder climate in Finland, intelligent front door sensors are more frequently installed than in Greece. Furthermore, elderly and relatives find the reminders system helpful with reminder prompts, when they are in that particular room at the time. Orientation for current day, date and time is highly appreciated by both elderly and family caregivers. The cooking monitor service not only prevents fire in case of forgotten cooking of food but also detects reduced cooking activity, which can imply degradation in the cognitive state. Another caregiver has noted that: “Throughout a longer period using the ISISEMD services, I had observed that an elderly woman living alone had lost weight over some time. The elderly woman´s son explained he had noticed this as well. We saw that the elderly´s cooking sensor had not been on for some time and so she was cooking more seldom. I had her son create reminders on the Carebox for her to remember to cook her food.”
Statistics on ISISEMD user satisfaction show that all users are willing to keep using the services in the future. Satisfaction evaluations illustrate a positive support from users, ranging from 75% to 100% for the relatives´ willingness to continue using the services. For the general satisfaction of the services and their functionality and usefulness, the statistics show a satisfaction rate of up to 90% among relatives. In conclusion, among the elderly people with mild dementia, there is a satisfaction rate of up to 92% with the services. With the ISISEMD system, benefits include more independency so that the elderly can sustain their daily activities and live a longer and safer life in their own homes. This ultimately leads to an increased quality of life for the elderly and their relatives.
The program has been co-funded by the European Commission.
For further information about this EU initiative