Cognitive stimulation for dementia patients

Dementia patients' cognitive abilities deteriorate in an environment without resources to keep them stimulated. This project aims to help.

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The challenge which prompted this project is that a significant number of dementia patients find themselves in hospitals rather than specialist care facilities for their condition. For instance they might have suffered a fall and broken a bone. Hospitals specialise in the physical side of healing for patients of all ages and mental capacities, and are often ill-equipped to provide the mental support for a patient who is both injured and a dementia sufferer.

The aim of the project is to develop a device for keeping the dementia patient mentally stimulated while they are in the care of a hospital for their physical problem, thus trying to ensure that their dementia does not get any worse.

(Wii image: By Evan-Amos (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

This project came about as a result of the Hackaday World Create Day meeting at Oxford Hackspace.

So... How do you stimulate a dementia patient?

When brainstorming for this project, the first ideas mentioned involved touchscreens, tablets, and apps. Then it was pointed out that a typical dementia patient is not one of the digital native generation. The example given was that if you gave them a rotary phone they'd use it without a second thought, but an iPhone would be too difficult for them. Thus the challenge is not just to stimulate them, but to do so with something they would find familiar or intuitive enough to use.

Of course, every patient is different. Some might interact with a box of tools, others with a golf club, yet more with craft work. A joystick or some buttons just aren't going to cut it.

We brainstormed around, and finally came up with the Wiimote. It's a controller in which the movement is the key rather than the controller buttons, it becomes an extension of your hand and exactly what the item you're controlling on the screen is. Our idea is that if you put it in the hands of an older person it will be intuitive to the extent that they will use it immediately.

Our idea then is to pair a Wiimote with a computer - probably a Raspberry Pi in the end rather than a Wii for cost reasons - and have it used to play simple interactive activities. Thus the patient does not face a steep learning curve or too much unfamiliarity, but does receive some stimulation from it.

  • Time to run a test or two

    Jenny List04/23/2016 at 19:04 0 comments

    OK, we've brainstormed our ideas, and decided a Wiimote might be the way forward. But does the idea stand up?

    Our first practical step will be to put a Wii with something straightforward like Wii Sports in the hands of someone from an older generation and see whether they find it intuitive. Can they just pick up the Wiimote and play Wii Sports without a steep learning curve, or is is not going to be something they'll enjoy?

    Time to go away and ask my older friends very nicely...

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