Staff and volunteers at Age UK Camden’s Dementia Befriending Service are harnessing the power of touchscreen technology to help people with dementia awaken old memories and connect with those around them.
People with dementia are using touchscreen tablets to listen to songs, watch film clips and look at images and photos that stimulate and bring past memories to life, with the initiative also helping to build relationships with their ‘befriender’.
Tracey McDermott, Coordinator of the Dementia Befriending Service, which is funded by NHS Camden Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said befrienders who had trialled using touchscreen tablets found they had had a positive impact.
“One older woman said she had always enjoyed singing so her befriender helped her watch a music video of the Beatles and they sang karaoke together and had a lot of fun,” she said.
“Another woman enjoyed looking at pictures of places she had visited and posters and synopses of films she had seen which then prompted memories and conversations.
“Her befriender also helped her to find poems which they then read aloud and they used images and maps to see the countries her son was visiting.”
Dr Caz Sayer, a local GP and Chair of NHS Camden CCG, said there was good evidence that computer technology could be a useful tool to support people with dementia.
“Dementia and technology may not seem an obvious match but bringing past memories to life in a visual or sensory way can be of huge value to people with dementia who sometimes have difficulty with communication,” she said.
“These memories can encourage new ideas and thoughts while using apps can provide an opportunity to learn new things, stimulating feelings of achievement, enjoyment and inquisitiveness.
“The process can act as an ice-breaker between the befriender and the older person, encouraging more social interaction and enabling the befriender to find out more about the person’s life-story.”
The Dementia Befriending Service supports socially isolated people in Camden who are living with dementia or memory impairment.
Volunteer befrienders carry out regular one-to-one visits to provide company and support people to take part in activities and maintain their hobbies, interests and skills.
They also help residents to access the local community and appropriate health and well-being services if or when they need it.
If you or someone that you know could benefit from the support of the Dementia Befriending Service, or would like to volunteer, please contact the Dementia Befriending Coordinator on 020 7239 0400.