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Prototype could simplify getting dressed with dementia

A “smart home” dresser prototype may help people with dementia dress themselves through automated assistance. This would enable them to maintain independence and dignity and provide their caregivers with a much-needed break.

People with dementia or other cognitive disorders have difficulty with everyday activities—such as bathing, dressing, eating, and cleaning—which in turn makes them increasingly dependent on caregivers. Dressing is one of the most common and stressful activities for both people with dementia and their caregivers because of the complexity of the task and lack of privacy. Research shows that adult children find it particularly challenging to help dress their parents, especially for different genders.

“Our goal is to provide assistance for people with dementia to help them age in place more gracefully, while ideally giving the caregiver a break as the person dresses—with the assurance that the system will alert them when the dressing process is completed or prompt them if intervention is needed,” says Winslow Burleson, associate professor at the New York University Rory Meyers College of Nursing, director of the NYU-X Lab, and the study’s lead author.

“The intent of the DRESS prototype is to integrate typical routines and humanized interactions, promote normalcy and safety, and allow for customization to guide people with dementia through the dressing process.”

Using input from caregiver focus groups, researchers developed an intelligent dressing system named DRESS, which integrates automated tracking and recognition with guided assistance with the goal of helping a person with dementia get dressed without a caregiver in the room.

Sensors let elderly ‘age in place’ for twice as long

The DRESS prototype uses a combination of sensors and image recognition to track progress during the dressing process using barcodes on clothing to identify the type, location, and orientation of a piece of clothing. A five-drawer dresser—topped with a tablet, camera, and motion sensor—has one piece of clothing per drawer in an order that follows an individual’s dressing preferences. A skin conductance sensor that the user wears as a bracelet monitors their stress levels and related frustration.

The caregiver initiates the DRESS system (and then monitors progress) from an app. The person with dementia receives an audio prompt recorded in the caregiver’s voice to open the top drawer, which simultaneously lights up. The clothing in the drawers contains barcodes that the camera detects. If an item of clothing goes on correctly, the DRESS system prompts the person to move to the next step; if it detects an error or lack of activity, audio prompts offer correction and encouragement. If it detects ongoing issues or an increase in stress levels, the system can alert a caregiver that help is needed.

The study appears in JMIR Medical Informatics. Coauthors are from Arizona State University and MGH Institute of Health Professions .

Source: New York University

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