Using technology to keep in touch

Technology provides an array of communication methods so people with dementia can keep in touch with family and friends. It can bring the world to where the person lives and help them to maintain important relationships.

Keep in touch with family and friends

Email, internet phone services such as Skype and social media are inexpensive ways to stay in touch and offer advantages to people with dementia.

Why use email with people with dementia?

Useful kit for emailing

Hints and tips for using email

Why use internet phone services with people with dementia?

Some services allow people to talk to each other over the internet. These are called voice over internet protocol, usually shortened to VOIP. Skype and Apple FaceTime and Googletalk are examples. The software is free and if the people you are calling also have the software, the call is free anywhere in the world.

You can also call ordinary phones (including mobiles) more cheaply with VOIP than if you were using conventional landline phone services because the software uses the internet to connect calls. For more information on how to use VOIP cost-effectively, visit Money Saving Expert.

The other advantage to helping people with dementia use internet phone services is that you can use a webcam, so that you can see the other person as well as hear them. This can be great for talking with people who are not able to visit. People who use sign language can communicate, often for the first time. Some people with dementia may find video calls confusing or disturbing, as they look like TV images and people do not expect to interact with the TV.

Useful kit for internet phone calls

Hints and tips for internet phone calls

Case study: Mrs G and Skype

Mrs G for a couple of years has spent her winters in the West Indies. Each time she is away, her children and grandchildren only speak to her by phone. Recently, she was given a tablet for her birthday but apart from playing games with her grandchildren, she was not sure what else she could use it for. Her children encouraged her to join a drop-in club to see if she could learn something new. The tutors took time to get to know Mrs G and to find out what she might be able to use her tablet for.

Mrs G has a close relationship with her daughters and grandchildren. She says ‘They’re always trying to get me to try new things, but I always tell them that I’m too old.’ Mrs G told her tutor she is planning to go away this winter again. ‘I’m looking forward to heading back to the West Indies for winter, London is always too cold’ so her tutor told her about Skype. Over two sessions, Mrs G was guided to create a Skype account. She learned how to add contacts, then how to make Skype voice and video calls. Mrs G was delighted. ‘I can’t believe it. I can see my children and grandchildren while I am away in the West Indies, and I can’t wait to show them what I can do now.’ Staff encouraged her contacts to upload photos by instant messaging them so it would make it easier for Mrs G to look at their photos and to call friends and family.

Helping the person with dementia to communicate

It is important that the person with dementia is able to communicate with their friends, family and carers, hopefully as independently as possible, both in times of emergency and non-emergency.

Some useful options

Mobile phone pendant

A little device, normally worn around the neck, which allows the wearer to call a pre-set list of carers by pressing the SOS button. The pendant includes a microphone and speaker, and as the call is made over the mobile phone network, it can be used inside and outside the home environment. Carers can even call the device, with the call being auto-answered.

Find out more: GPS Tracker - Fall Alert - Mini GPS Tracker - Tracker For Dementia – on Amazon.

Digital cordless phone

A little device, either worn as a watch, or around the neck, which enables someone with dementia to receive incoming landline calls, by just pressing one button to answer the call. To make a call to a pre-set list of numbers, the wearer just needs to press both buttons at the same time.

Find out more: Minifone

Big button photo phone

A big button landline phone, with photos, allowing the person with dementia to call loved ones, just by pressing their photo. Also especially adapted to work with hearing aids, and has a very loud volume for those who are hard of hearing.

Find out more: Mybelle 650 Hearing Aid Compatible Phone

Auto-dial telephone

An auto-dial telephone can make a call to carers if the phone is taken off the hook without further buttons needing to be pressed.

Find out more: Rotary Style Telephone CL60

Simple mobile phones

A mobile phone, with easy access buttons to call a small number of people, using simple names next to the buttons to help the person with dementia.

Find out more: Doro Secure 580

Disclaimer: The products mentioned are to provide ideas for consideration only, none are endorsed by SCIE.