AI and assistive technologies answer to future dementia care

Assistive robots and monitoring devices could help solve the world’s growing dementia crisis according to a leading Griffith University health expert.

In a paper published in Nature Reviews Neurology, Professor Wendy Moyle from Menzies Health Institute Queensland, says technologies that augment existing care can maintain a person comfortably in their community, maximise individual autonomy and promote social participation.

Professor Moyle said robots potentially had many advantages compared with human care.

“They can be programmed to provide care in an emotionally supportive way that avoids abuse of the rights of the person. Human care can be less consistent, and the quality of human-provided care depends on how busy the carer is and how they feel about the individual.

“Currently 50 million people are living with dementia world-wide and by 2050 it’s predicted that number will rise to 152 million people. With no cure in sight, we must consider how to care for these individuals in the future.”

She said despite technological advances over the past decade, societal acceptance was often a barrier to the use of robots.

“Care for people with dementia is complex and needs a flexible approach suited to a person’s physical and cognitive needs. It would take an incredibly sophisticated AI system to predict and respond to all their personal care needs appropriately.

“While people with dementia are living longer lives in the community, without adequate support for their declining physical and psychological needs, the majority end up in nursing homes.

Professor Moyle said people must learn to think of technology as part of society to broaden the opportunities for home-based care of people with dementia.

“Governments must value innovation and support technology development and universities and research institutes must promote the commercialisation of products they have developed.

“Those producing these technologies should be focussed on involving both people with dementia and their carers in the design of ethical products that meet end-user needs.

“Such technologies offer great promise for assisting with the physical and cognitive challenges of people with dementia and in helping to reduce the burden on carers and the challenges of an ageing workforce.”