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Assistive technology helps European dementia sufferers with daily living

March 1, 2010
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Tens of millions of elderly people in the EU suffering from mild dementia may be able to look after themselves, and free up their caregivers, thanks to a new European-developed system.

The “COGKNOW” project brought together some of the leading dementia specialists in Europe, doctors from the Netherlands, Sweden, and Northern Ireland with teams of software researchers and developers. Their aim was to address a range of different needs of mild dementia patients and come up with a simple, user-friendly device to meet those needs.

“Separate devices and solutions exist for many of the needs, and if people learn how to use them early on, then they may be able to continue using them quite far into the disease,” project researchers said. “But it then becomes a problem for the patient to remember where the devices are, and how each of them works.”

The COGKNOW project set out to create two user-friendly devices, one home-based and one mobile, featuring all the high-priority and previously unmet needs, as identified by end users and their caregivers, as well as the dementia experts.

They determined that touch-screen technology was the ideal interface between persons with dementia and computer-based assistive functions. An added attraction was the fact that they could buy the needed hardware devices off the shelf and then install the COGKNOW Day Navigator software suite on them.

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The end result was a flat-screen monitor for the home, which can be either wall mounted or standalone, and a mobile smart phone with a much simplified user interface installed.

Both devices are controlled solely by touch screen (the monitor does not even come with a keyboard) with the COGKNOW application maintained on top of everything so nothing else is visible to the end user. “The application takes control of the device and makes it impossible for the user to activate the more difficult-to-use functions of these devices,” researchers said.

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Thank you, Kathleen

I receive Long-Term Living, and I just love the final page by Kathleen Mears (Resident Reflections). It truly helps me to see the whole other side, and January's essay about security was apropos to our nursing home which has now instituted more security measures for our residents in light of some of the very things about which Ms. Mears wrote. Thank you for a fine article. Thank you so much.

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Rockford, Illinois

They can also be linked to video presentations showing how to operate, for example, the stove, microwave oven, or washing machine.

Most functions are also included on the mobile device, which comes with an important GPS-based feature.

The system was field-tested on user groups in three countries, and the majority of users and caregivers perceived significant improvement in their lives and their ability to get through the day, researchers reported.

Now some members of the project, which finished last August, are working to commercialize the system and market it around Europe.

For more information about COGKNOW visit http://www.cogknow.eu.

Long-Term Living 2010 March;59(3):10

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