Dementia & Cognition Tech: Join the Discussion

Our explorers are discussing tech to help care for people with cognition issues. Join the discussion. Share your insights in the comments.

Do you have experience with a useful product, or a "problem that needs solving" — relating to dementia or mild cognitive impairment?

We are interested in exploring ways to improve the quality of life of the person WITH dementia. As well as ways to make a caregiver's life better in that situation.

  • To join the conversation, use the "add new comments" link below.

16 thoughts on “Dementia & Cognition Tech: Join the Discussion”

  1. Among those of our group who
    Among those of our group who are struggling with dementia (and increasingly people are willing to acknowledge their affliction and how it is affecting them), the Echo devices, particularly the Echo Show have been the most useful. One woman who is very Bible-centric likes listening to the Bible and to her favorite preachers. Another, also a woman, who has always been a reader enjoys listening to the latest bestsellers even though she doesn’t remember them afterward and she is challenged to be able to discuss her reading. Still, it helps her to feel that she is still engaged and she still matters.

    A couple, who have been separated because he is memory confined and she is in independent living, used the Echo Drop In feature to preserve their relationship. He is well along into decline and is unable to answer a phone but when she “drops in” he recognizes her, and their daily connection has helped relieve the grief of separation and isolation that they both experience.

    The beauty of the Echo Show is its ease of use after setup and the increasing effectiveness of its video connections. It is the video connection that allows the couple above to have their most poignant moments. The afflicted man has lost the ability of much verbal expression but his body language continues to declare his love and devotion. That is very big.

    The challenges of the Echo Show are many and are surprising. It’s astonishing that Amazon doesn’t just make it easier to use instead of trying to make it hip. For instance, set up requires a Smartphone which people in dementia care don’t generally use. There’s no reason why a video screen on an Echo Show can’t be used to do the full set up process, including creating an automatic Amazon account with a simple password to get started. Later, if the account is to be actualized with a Credit Card and ordering capability, the password and security settings can be escalated. But people dealing with dementia or near dementia need simple.

    Next, there’s no reason why Zoom shouldn’t be as easy to initiate and use on the Amazon Echo Show is it is on any Tablet device but Zoom has linked it in the most confusing way to calendars, which are themselves confusing to synchronize, so the effect is that Zoom is not practically accessible on the Echo Show, though it may be for Zoom theoretical technicians. Since many families use Zoom for family gatherings, this precludes those with dementia who could join through the Drop In capability from being part of these larger family gatherings. Our hope is that someone at Zoom just gives a direction to the technical staff to get Zoom on Echo Show up and running pronto. My impression is that they (the Zoom technicians) have made the simple difficult. That’s not Zoomerly.

    Finally, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Echo Show had an HDMI out port, so that connection could be made to a large screen television, allowing the interactive experience to pop and come to life big time. The availability of a web camera with effective microphone pickup for mounting on the TV would make family connections with those otherwise isolated by dementia a wonderful support force for these overlooked, forgotten, and unfortunate people.

    • Hello Jack,

      Hello Jack,

      I agree that the Echo Show has been made too hard to setup for those with no smartphone. That is why I wrote the article on family members setting up the Alexa Show using Google Voice before shipping to their loved one.

      I also wrote an article on making a Zoom meeting on the Echo Show easy to join with the loved one just having to say “Alexa, join the meeting”. The automation of creating the calendar event is handled without them having to find a Zoom meeting link in their email.

      There are also some upcoming articles on adding Zoom captions for the hard of hearing.

      The Echo Show HDMI port (or casting) would be nice, but the Fire TV Cube can offer large screen Alexa Calling as well as showing family photos.

      Here are some ideas on automations that you could perform to make things easier for a loved one.

      It would be a lot easier if Amazon was handling all of these issues.


      • Thanks, Frank… That’s very
        Thanks, Frank… That’s very helpful. It’s unfortunate that it takes workarounds to make Amazon’s product provide its benefit to those who need it the most. I hope Amazon reads this post and takes it to heart.

  2. I had a father with the
    I had a father with the dementia and my challenge was how to keep him safe while engaging in as much activities as he could. I used home automation and setups to make life easier for him and give me piece of mind should he need help.

  3. For those of us aging, even

    For those of us aging, even without MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment), short-term memory issues are a problem. When we were younger and had fixed routines every day, it was easier to stay “grounded” on what day of the week it was and what we needed to do that day. If you are retired, and have no fixed schedule, and one day seems like another, it’s easy to lose track.

    A simple device like a “calendar-clock” display (Dementia display) can help someone with MCI feel grounded.

    With the advent of voice assistants with screen such as the Amazon Echo Show, those multiple Post-it notes around the home can be replaced with a proactive, friendly voice assistant providing daily reminders about appointments, drinking enough, and getting up off the couch.

    Alerts on things such as doors left open, fridge getting too warm, faucet left running, stove burner left on can be detected and announced in a friendly manner. Trends can be reported to family caregivers, including monitoring sleeping patterns. This can help detect effects from medication changes.

    Shared family calendars, with family loved ones managing the appointment have proved very useful. Video calls, especially those with shared pictures, shared YouTube videos or reliving places we have been using Google Maps or StreetView can increase the feedback from a loved one.

    Video doorbell cameras with images automatically posted to the Echo Show or TV with a gentle reminder “not to open the door before checking the camera” can give remote family caregivers a feeling of security.

    For those with more serious memory decline, a daily recorded video from their loved ones could be played at the appropriate time through an Alexa Routine. Dedicated buttons could be programmed for certain functions such as lighting and favorite TV shows.

    Screensaver family photos and proactive music playback from one’s era has proved effective

    Those semi-automated soft pets have proved to be very comforting for those who can no longer care for a pet. A friend of mine brings his “dog” with him on his RV adventures and his wife enjoyed her “cat”

  4. We have contributed to trying
    We have contributed to trying out two concepts but not a major success. Would love to hear others’ ideas!

  5. My mother, and another friend
    My mother, and another friend, who both had and died of Alzheimer’s were most reachable through music even to the last days alive. The man was a folk dancer who had danced for 80 years and when he could no longer communicate, could hardly walk, and didn’t know who he was, his son continued to bring him to our folk dance group because it made dad happy the rest of the day. As soon as he heard the music (and he knew hundreds of folk dances and had been a dance teacher), his feet worked again and he could dance even the intricate patterns based on the music programming in his brain.
    My mother, who had been in the SF Opera Chorus as a young woman, loved classical music and opera her whole life. Her final 6 months in hospice at home she could hardly communicate either but she would hear the music, smile, and even sang a bit of favorite Italian opera arias in Italian even though her English was pretty much kaput (and it was her native language).
    So, the programming of music in the brain seems to enable pulling out the movement and vocabulary that is otherwise not accessible in normal means due to broken communication paths. If there is a way to teach perhaps habits like tooth brushing or self feeding (if safe) to appropriate music perhaps some self management skills could be kept alive in people (if they can learn new skills to music which i don’t know but guess they might). Anyway, even if new can’t be learned, anything that can increase their joy and reduce fear, anxiety, etc with music would be a welcome improvement in their lives.
    Sorry i have no social media or home pages. I hope i am allowed to comment.

    • Hi, Mary Adamson,
      Hi, Mary Adamson,

      Be sure to check out the story in the latest AARP Magazine of how Tony Bennett was able to continue to perform his singing for several years after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It’s a very moving story and it shows the value of music in our lives, especially as we age.

      • Thank you Jack. I used to
        Thank you Jack. I used to read AARP at the senior center and now don’t have access (my husband and i never joined since they charge for membership), but i will see if i can find this online. This sounds really interesting.  Thanks for letting me know. Mary

          • Jack Thank you for the link
            Jack Thank you for the link to the article. That was so well written – beautifully written and i am so glad he has a loving family with him. I was fascinated by the part that mentions how the singing musical part isn’t the same as the speech part of the brain, which would explain how my mother managed to do the dame thing. I wonder if there are ways we can encourage Alzheimer’s patients to sing their needs – teach them ditties with common needs phrases to music so that that can find the words each time in the speech generation section – hungry, bathroom, etc could be parts of the song cycle and they could select what they want from it perhaps? Anyway, I am just trying to think of ways to break through when the normal comms are cut. Thanks for all your comments and help on this topic.

          • Brain injury whether due to

            Brain injury whether due to trauma, disease, or mere deterioration is complicated.  I'm no doctor but I can share a revealing story.  A man was hospitalized after a stroke.  He couldn't speak. One of those attending him, however, knew Morse Code and noted that he was tapping out Morse Code with his spoon.  Those caring for him were able to communicate with him by Morse Code. 

            Another time I was working the desk at a Senior Center when a woman came in looking for information for her mother-in-law who she told me is a Holocaust survivor.  She was looking for programs that her mother-in-law might enjoy even though she, too, was nonverbal after a stroke.  On a whim, I spoke to the mother-in-law in German and was astonished to discover that the woman brightened up wanting to converse.  Her daughter-in-law, however, flew into a rage and said don't ever speak German to her.  Do you know what the Germans did to her?

            With that, they left.  I was afraid that the daughter-in-law might file a complaint and get me in trouble but that didn't happen.  I was sad that this woman, who evidently had grown up speaking German, was denied that connection.  I understand, though, the anguish of the daughter-in-law at the thought of the unspeakable atrocities to which her mother-in-law was witness.

            It's hard to find our human connection when so many are carrying pain.  All we can do is what you are doing.  We just have to keep on trying… even when trying may be misunderstood or risky.


  6. My 96 year old Aunt has mild
    My 96 year old Aunt has mild dementia. During the earlier days of caregiving she would often accuse me of stealing. It would upset me and I would deny it. Denial only made the problem bigger and caused more conflict and confusion. This just made caregiving and our relationship terrible. So, I took some classes about dementia online and found that using “Therapeutic Lying” could make all the difference in our relationship and keep it positive.
    An example of “Therapeutic Lying” . . . My Aunt asked me to come into her living room and sit down because she needed to talk to me. I sat down and she said, “Bev, when you leave my home you are always taking something of mine with you.” My reply was, “Aunt Bernette, I am sorry. Could you please help me with this problem and stop me and let me know that I am taking something that belongs to you. She said that she would help me with this problem. Since she was a participant in solving the problem it made her feel good and put her in the drivers seat. Sometimes other occasions arise and if we can think quickly and creatively we can avoid conflicts. I have found it very helpful in caring for my Aunt “to always ask permission” before doing things to help her. This lets my Aunt feels she is in control.

    • That is so wise and so hard
      That is so wise and so hard to implement when we feel defensive. We all want to matter, so they very old just want to matter. James Lee tells the story of an Alzheimer’s woman in his care who repeatedly wailed, “Help me.” That makes sense since it must make a person feel very helpless to be trapped in the frightening world of dementia. One day she cried, “Help me,” and he replied, “I’m here to help because I love you.” That was what she needed. She replied, “I love you, too,” and she beamed a wide smile. She was no longer helpless when she was able to give and receive love. You are a very wise woman, Bev Cobb.

  7. We care for two family
    We care for two family members not living with us…one with deminitia, 84 y.o. and one with low i.q., 65 y.o. Four things helpful for us: 1. Nest, 3 cameras, set up for us to check in on her anytime on our ap, plus our phone brings when she moves 2. Hero online medication dispenser, I can’t say enough about how wonderful this computerized medication dispenser helps them take their medications correctly, and we get a text if she misses a dose 3. Apple I-Watch will fall indicator and heart rate…if either notices a problem, it calls 911 4. SHIPT grocery delivery service, they tell us their grocery needs (or we go off of their last order), order their groceries & is delivered to their home.