Artificially intelligent technology should be used to “fill in the gaps” in the brains of people with dementia, the head of the Alzheimer Society has said.
Kate Lee, chief executive of the charity, said more use should be made of programs that recognize faces, speak forgotten words or help people take care of pets and their homes.
There are an estimated 944,000 people with dementia in Britain, and this figure is expected to rise to over one million by 2030 and to over 1.6 million by 2050.
But most dementia technology is used to track people, rather than help them live their lives.
Writing for The Telegraph, Ms Lee said: ‘It is not enough to protect people with dementia. We need to be much more ambitious – and harness technology to enable people to live the life they want, to follow their hobbies, to have friends, to keep a sense of themselves.
“The kind of technology we’ve seen applied to dementia so far is far behind the standard we use in our daily lives – Alexa, Spotify and TikTok use cutting-edge software that has truly transformed the way we live.
“It’s amazing that in an age where facial recognition technology pushes you to tag your brother in a Facebook photo, people with dementia can’t benefit from the same technology gently reminding them as the person walking into the room is their daughter, Kate.
“With machine learning and artificial intelligence embedded in everything we do, from predictive text to driving our cars, there is a real and exciting opportunity to harness this technological revolution for the benefit of people with dementia, to help fill gaps in their brains as their condition progresses.
“It could be the difference between keeping someone safe and helping them live the life they want.”
The charity has teamed up with Innovate UK and the Medical Research Council (MRC) to create the £4million Longitude Dementia Prize to encourage inventors to find new ways to help people to cope with neurodegenerative diseases.
Organizers said the projects could involve Netflix-like platforms that could make recommendations on what to buy in stores, or who or where to visit.
Or facial recognition technology could learn the nonverbal communication of dementia patients so it can suggest the right word or contact a loved one.
Why artificial intelligence is the next big step in the fight against dementia
By Kate Lee, CEO of the Alzheimer Society
Dementia is one of the most significant global health challenges we face today. It’s the UK’s biggest killer and there are 900,000 people with dementia here, expected to reach 1.6 million by 2040. My mum is one of them.
Almost everyone you meet has a connection to dementia; a parent, a grandparent, a friend they have watched heartbreakingly deteriorate before their eyes. It’s hard to deny that dementia is devastating, robbing people of their memories and identity. But we are not without hope. Over the past 20 years, we have seen many breakthroughs in the care and treatment of dementia on a scale never seen by previous generations, from research that has helped us understand its causes to groundbreaking trials for treatments. potentials.
We know there are treatments around the corner that could be life-changing for some people with dementia, but what about those currently living with it? I’ve heard that when a person is diagnosed with cancer they are afraid of death – when you are diagnosed with dementia you are afraid of life.
One of the most exciting and accessible advances has been the rapid growth of dementia technology – smart electronic devices that have already proven invaluable in helping to improve care for people with dementia.
Remote monitoring devices that would allow GPs to intervene and prevent falls or infections are on the way, meaning more people should be able to live safely at home for longer, and apps for Location tracking that reassures loved ones is already being used across the country.
But it is not enough to protect people with dementia. We need to be much more ambitious – and harness technology to enable people to live the life they want, to follow their hobbies, to have friends, to keep a sense of themselves.
The kind of technology we’ve seen applied to dementia so far is far behind the norm we use in our daily lives – Alexa, Spotify and TikTok use cutting-edge software that has transformed the way we live. We need the same pioneering approach to dementia technology, where the promise and possibility of a technological revolution for the lives of people living with the disease is enormous.
We know that existing technology is often too complicated or not intuitive for people with dementia. We need a different approach that not only addresses reflection and memory issues, but also provides workarounds. Even for the partners and caregivers of many people with dementia, technology can be a struggle. Many today belong to a generation where technology was not part of life growing up. My mother, Barbara, was diagnosed with dementia in 2007, and we struggled to balance her security with her independence and her ability to do the things she always had. We didn’t really use a lot of technology other than FaceTime, partly because my dad, as a caregiver, had a hard time using the technology because it just wasn’t easy to use. Why can’t we create an iPad that, when picked up, just responds to the motion sensor and knows how to call your child?
With machine learning and artificial intelligence embedded in everything we do, from predictive text to driving our cars, there is a real and exciting opportunity to harness this technological revolution for the benefit of people with dementia, to help fill in the gaps in their brain as their condition evolves. It could be the difference between keeping someone safe and helping them live the life they want.
Can you imagine a world where being diagnosed with dementia doesn’t one day mean you have to give up your driver’s license because self-driving car software (which already exists) can kick in if you’re struggling? Or when a ‘smart’ plug sends a message to your children/guardians when you’ve boiled and poured the kettle, to confirm you’ve had your morning cuppa?