How do People with Dementia and Their Carers Make Assistive Technology Work for Them: Innovation, personalisation and bricolage

A Social Gerontologist by background, Dr Grant Gibson is a Lecturer in Dementia Studies within the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Stirling. Grant lectures on the Dementia Studies MSc at the University of Stirling; one of the world’s first and leading Dementia Studies postgraduate programmes, and teaches on modules including Dementia and the Environment and Research and Evaluation in Dementia Care. Grant has been a researcher in the fields of dementia care for over 12 years. Within dementia care, Grant’s interests lay in the design and implementation of assistive technologies for people with dementia within routine care, user perspectives in relation to technology in dementia care, and mainstreaming of non-pharmacological interventions (including technology) within dementia care. Grant wider interests include embodiment, masculinity and the subjective experience of chronic illness in older age. Grant’s PhD used embodied perspectives to explore men’s experiences of living with Parkinson’s Disease, and the intersection of age and gender relations in this experience. Funded by the Life Changes Trust, Grant is currently co-investigator on a project called ‘A Good Life in Later Years’, which is using co-production to explore what makes up the essence of a ‘good life’ for older people in Scotland.
In the United Kingdom Assistive technologies (AT) are being ‘mainstreamed’ within dementia care services. However little is known about how people with dementia use either these technologies, or the services that provide them in practice. Reporting the results of part of an NIHR study exploring provision of services to people with dementia in primary care, in this seminar Grant Gibson explores issues around the use of assistive technologies within dementia care. In the bulk of the seminar Grant reports on a project examining the everyday use of AT among people with dementia and their carers. Qualitative, in-depth semi-structured interviews with 29 people with dementia and carers explored their experiences of using AT within their everyday lives and facilitators and barriers to their use. From using sticky notes as signs or re-purposing of everyday or even novelty devices, to networking smartphones and tablets within bespoke telecare systems, AT were used in combination with everyday devices to provide care in often individual, personalised and novel ways. In practice this use can be characterised by ‘bricolage’; the non-conventional combination of devices in diverse ways often differing from their original design. Factors influencing the bricolage based use of technology in dementia care included the ability and willingness of informal carers to act as bricoleurs, a lack of awareness of AT products or how to access AT through formal services among people with dementia, carers and GP’s and a lack of flexibility in AT systems. While everyday use of AT among people with dementia can be characterised by bricolage, current design and delivery of products, alongside the organisation of technology services for dementia limits the use of AT in person centred ways. How people with dementia and carers engage in bricolage when using AT, and how services can mobilise these experiences in order to provide truly person centred technology enabled care services in dementia therefore requires greater attention.