Using ICT in activities for people with dementia

ICTs for keeping in touch

There are two main ways you can use the internet to support communication for people with dementia:

ICT in action: Using the internet to call friends and family

Our residents were wary of technology. If you don’t make a big deal out of it though, people get used to it. We had one resident who was scared of the computer when we first brought it out, and would not use it. But we introduced it slowly, and within a couple of weeks she was using Skype on her own.

Why use email with people with dementia?

There are specific advantages to helping people with dementia use email:

Basic kit for emailing

  • A desktop computer, laptop or tablet
  • Access to the internet
  • Web-based email such as Yahoo or Hotmail

Hints and tips for using email

Why use internet phone services with people with dementia?

There are a number of services that allow people to talk to each other over the internet. These are called voice over internet protocol, usually shortened to VOIP. The best known is Skype, but there are others such as Googletalk. The software is free and if the people you are calling also have the software, the call is free, anywhere in the world.

Further information: costs savings with internet phone calls

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

Apart from cost, the main 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 their voice. This can be great for communication with friends or family who are geographically far away. People who use sign language can communicate at a distance on video calls, often for the first time. However, be aware that for some people with dementia, video calls can be confusing or even disturbing, as they look like TV images and people do not expect to interact with the TV.

Basic kit for internet phone calls

  • A laptop, tablet or desktop computer
  • Access to the internet
  • VOIP software, such as Skype or Googletalk
  • The computer may have an inbuilt microphone and speakers. If not, you may need to get a headphone and microphone to plug in to the computer. These are not too expensive and they are more private
  • If you want to do video calls, you need a webcam. These are not too expensive either and they can be attached to desktop computers. Many laptops and tablets have them built in
  • You can also use some mobile phones (smart phones) to make VOIP calls, though many find that the small screens is not ideal

Hints and tips for internet phone calls

Further information: Social media

Social media such as Facebook offer a different approach to keeping in touch online. For many people with dementia, social media interfaces may be too complex. You also need to be mindful about privacy and safety issues when using these services, as they are designed to be very public. But if you are working with people who do want to use social media, Digital Unite has useful introductory guides to social networking and to internet privacy and security.