social care Technology

How sensory stimulation can radically improve dementia care

John Ramsay, Founder and Managing Director, Social-Ability

John Ramsay, Founder and Managing Director, Social-Ability explains the positive impact that interactive light technology can have on people living with dementia and cognitive challenges.

Society needs to brace itself for a surge in dementia-related costs over the next couple of decades. New research from the Alzheimer’s Society shows that they could almost double to £91bn by 2040. That’s up from the £42.5bn that it costs the UK already.

These rapidly rising costs are in direct correlation with the growing number of people who live with dementia. About 980,000 people live with it today and by 2040, the Alzheimers Society expects this to grow to over 1.4m people.

Delivering high-quality care to this growing population is one of the biggest challenges. As the numbers soar, it’s crucial that we don’t compromise on care standards. So, how can the sector maintain the high quality it aspires to?

Sensory stimulation is necessary for health and profit

The most logical step for organisations to address this issue is to streamline operations as much as possible. This helps care homes to survive and continue delivering their services. But there’s often a compromise to be made: it leads to a reduction in the standard of care delivered.

It’s crucial for stakeholders to prioritise budgets and opportunities for activities and engagement within care homes. I’ve witnessed the consequences of neglecting these elements when my own father developed dementia, seeing firsthand how essential it is to create happy moments and provide access to engaging life experiences.

Sensory stimulation activities offer one way to do just that. Care environments can often feel very clinical, and those experiencing dementia can lack exciting media to engage with – maybe a radio or TV at best. And research from Sport England reveals that people with long-term conditions like dementia are twice as likely to be inactive. But activities which increase sensory stimulation can drastically improve their social, physical, and cognitive wellbeing. It can get them moving, and also offer them opportunities to interact with other people.

How technology can improve the care experience for everyone

Interactive light technology, which engages people living in care with multi-sensory media, is an excellent example of this. The technology enables people living with dementia to engage with physically and mentally demanding games like bubble-popping, piano playing, colouring, leaf-sweeping, and other activities.

Social-Ability’s own technology, accessible through the Happiness Programme, has achieved astonishing results in this way. Ninety-eight percent of participating care providers reported improved social wellbeing. One in every six recorded a reduction in the number of falls their residents experienced. Seventy-three percent noticed a reduction in stress levels of the people they care for. The programme has also led to improved health outcomes, higher activity levels, and a reduced need for antipsychotic drugs.

One of the other less visible benefits of interactive light technology is its effect on the carers and families who look after those living with dementia. Care professionals who engage with the technology have reported feeling more engaged and happier, and able to create better relationships with the people they are caring for. It also provides a means for families to connect with their relatives through a fun intergenerational activity.

The care sector will need to face some hard truths over the coming years as dementia affects more and more people. But it’s important that care providers refuse to sacrifice the quality of care they provide in that process, especially when there are affordable tools available to help them. Activities enabled by new technologies, like interactive light, can bring great happiness and joy to care environments that so desperately need it.



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