Dementia is a crippling disease that not only makes it difficult for the affected person to perform everyday tasks, but also poses myriad challenges for caretakers, whether they are family members or hired health care personnel. This is a situation I’m somewhat familiar with, as my 92 year-old grandmother has suffered from dementia for some years now. Her condition has deteriorated to the point where she barely speaks and can no longer comfortably go out to restaurants or on social outings with other family members. She now requires round-the-clock care by several home health care aides.

Luckily, my grandmother is being watched constantly. But what happens when a dementia patient lives alone, isolated from family and friends and with limited health care access? Fortunately, there may be hope, thanks to smart home technology  developed at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom. The technology, which encompasses specially developed sensing, electronics, and IT capabilities, monitors the patient’s movements and actions around the home. Functioning like a caretaker, the programmable, non-intrusive technology provides voice prompts to help dementia patients safely perform tasks. If needed, it can be programmed to switch lights or appliances on or off as needed.

So far, the smart home technology has been installed in two care homes in London. If it can be ramped up on a larger scale, smart home technology can hopefully finally become practical for a segment of the population that can really benefit, rather than being relegated to the homes of the wealthy or techno-savvy do-it yourselfers.