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Tomaž Gržinič talks to Spominčica magazine about dementia and technology

Tuesday 18 September 2018

Tomaž Gržinič was diagnosed with Alzheimer's dementia in 2016 and joined the Slovenian Working Group for People with Dementia in 2017. He is now the group’s President and in autumn 2017, was nominated by Spominčica - Alzheimer Slovenia to join the European Working Group of People with Dementia (EWGPWD). He was recently interviewed about dementia and technology, by Spominčica magazine for its September 2018 edition and his supporter Alenka Virant has translated the text into English for us: We could not imagine our daily routine without technology anymore. Some people define ICT tools as a necessary support for tasks, while for some it is too challenging and complex. ICT pros and cons vary among people. So, what role does ICT play for people with dementia?

Tomaž Gržinič talks about ICT tools in terms of better quality of life. In the last volume of Spominčica magazine, his point of view was on how technology convinced him to start monitoring his everyday activities and see where the limit is between private and technology.

How do you think the development of ICT tools and other medical equipment encourages autonomy for persons with dementia, and can it enhance their safety at home?

Tomaž:This technology is useful in every perspective, in particular for individuals with dementia living alone. Dementia is a disease in which chronic memory problems (e.g. you forget to close the door, fridge and windows) influence your every step. Devices, such as sensors and reminders, significantly reduce negative impacts of dementia. A sensor, for instance, could detect some movements or falls. In case you cannot move and you lay on the floor for over 15 minutes, the device itself can notify carers to intervene. If you forget to lock the door, the system reminds you before it becomes dangerous. These examples are just one aspect of the process of creating a “safe home”.

What is your opinion about ICT tools – are they suitable for older people or are they too complex to use?

Tomaž: In my experience, I would say they are definitely useful, because professionals usually prepare and set all the preferences and specifications for ease of use. You do not have to worry about that. However, some adaptations and considerations need to be taken into account: one of them is that older people often have poor eyesight or hearing problems, but all devices and reminders can be tailored to individual needs, so this should be OK, on the whole.

Do you find modern technology (sensors, devices, reminders) easy to use? Are they useful in terms of maintaining autonomy in everyday tasks and household chores?

Tomaž: The general idea is definitely positive, especially when adaptation for each individual is possible, which is of huge importance, depending on the type of dementia and limitations you are facing. In my case, sensors are really important, for example giving me some sound alerts if I forget to close the freezer. I am still good at closing fridge door, though. The whole smart system supports you in the areas you need it most.

Do you think modern technology make you feel more safe, secure and less dependent on caregivers?

Tomaž: Yes, I am positive about that. Overall, I feel safer, because the system warns relatives, carers or significant others about critical medical problems or events such as falls, if you are injured or even unconscious. This was my personal experience. The technology I use has more advantages than disadvantages. Therefore, I would recommend it to others, too. It is, however, the choice of each individual, whether they would like to use such technology, and to what extent. Some people are reserved or skeptical about new technology at first, because they have a big fear of it controlling or having a negative impact on their lives. Personally, I still think a smart system is very supportive for persons with dementia and has, for me, no obvious downsides.