Voice operated technology is proving to boost the well being of people diagnosed with dementia throughout Staffordshire.
In recent months support workers at charity Approach Dementia Support and Douglas Macmillan Hospice have used Alexa Echo Shows to recall memories and share experiences during activities and home visits.
The devices were provided free of charge to the charity thanks to a digital inclusion project supported by the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent STP Technology Enabled Care Services Programme, and funding allocated by NHSE.
Pauline Allen, Dementia Well-being Activities Worker at Approach Dementia Support, uses an Alexa during her interactive activity sessions. She said: “The Alexa is a fabulous tool I use to re-capture memories of music.
“I have background sound playing when I’m engaging in activities and we have an Alexa in one of our family meeting rooms at the hospice.
“I use the Alexa for information or songs and one gentleman in particular used to be in a Welsh choir, so we used Alexa to randomly pick artists and it played Harry Secombe and the gentleman sang along, with tears in his eyes.
“Music is a very important part of life and we believe the Alexa’s will continue to bring happiness and joy.”
As well as using the Alexa’s to recall musical memories, Pauline along with Dementia Liaison Co-Ordinator, Melanie Baines have also discovered other ways of helping memories come to life.
Melanie adds: “We have followers of Stoke City Football Club and we have been able to capture memories of the club’s 1972 League Cup win.
“We used Alexa to find current news of the club and also played the song “We’ll be with you” in the background. So many benefits are captured and so many happy tears are shed, including mine.”
Ruth Chambers Staffordshire STP’s clinical lead for technology enabled care services programme, digital work stream said: “It’s great working with the Dougie Mac hospice team and Approach to help us deploy personal digital assistant devices to their service users who they anticipate will benefit at this stage of their end of life and dementia. With family help in the set up, they can now do regular video calls with their loved ones and reduce their social isolation.”
Support for the project has also been provided by partner organisation Wavemaker, a community interest company based in Stoke-on-Trent.
Alex Rowley, Director and Chief Technical Officer at Wavemaker, said: “As the technical partner on this project, it’s been an honour to be involved and aid in the implementation of these devices for people in nee.
“We’ve long known digital assistants can offer so much to the health care sector, but to experience and witness the benefits first hand has been fantastic.”
Chris Bellis receives support from Approach Dementia Support whilst caring for his wife at home and says Alexa has proved to be a huge benefit.
“The back ground music has helped a lot with Christine and I’ve found the timers so useful when I’m cooking,” said Chris.
“I’ve also been able to use the Alexa for reminders to take Christine out for several appointments. We can’t thank Approach enough for their generosity.”
Louise Eagle, Head of Strategic Alliance at Approach Dementia Support and Douglas Macmillan Hospice, said: “This project is brilliant and shows the importance of music. We are using all the technology we can to bring this to life and we thank everyone who has been involved for providing us with the Alexa Echo Shows – it has made a huge difference to those we support.”