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‘Prescribe assistive tech for dementia patients’

GP survey reveals the role they believe technology can play in maintaining independence

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More than two thirds of GPs in the UK would like to be able to prescribe assistive technologies to their patients when they are diagnosed with dementia, new research suggests.

The survey of GPs nationally found that they were especially keen to see new technologies designed specifically to help people living with dementia maintain their independence. 

Nearly nine in ten (88 per cent) of GPs believe that people living with dementia who can live in their own homes will live more fulfilling lives, with over three quarters (77 per cent) believing it will help people to live longer.

However, 83 per cent of GPs voiced frustration that their dementia patients do not receive enough support at home. 

While there are some existing technologies designed for people with dementia, most focus on monitoring a person living with the condition rather than supporting them to help them maintain independence for longer through helping them continue doing day-to-day activities – a concern shared by 86 per cent of the GPs surveyed.

Challenging the outdated stereotype that older people are tech-averse, half (49 per cent) of GPs say that the majority of their early-stage dementia patients use technology in their everyday lives.

The research was carried out by the Longitude Prize on Dementia, funded by Alzheimer’s Society and Innovate UK, and delivered by Challenge Works. 

Dame Louise Robinson, GP and professor of primary care and ageing, Newcastle University, said: “GPs increasingly ‘prescribe’ non-drug interventions such as counselling and social prescribing for people living with long term conditions.

“Technology, especially if it is used as part of a package of person-centred support, can help people with dementia live at home longer which is the ultimate goal.”

Kate Lee, CEO of Alzheimer’s Society, which is a co-funder of the Longitude Prize on Dementia, said: “It’s encouraging that many GPs join us in seeing the huge potential that tech could bring for the 900,000 people in the UK living with dementia. 

“Dementia is a progressive condition set to affect one in three people born today, so we must think more broadly about how to end the devastation it causes, by helping people manage their symptoms and stay independent for longer.

“It’s exciting that soon we may have potential new treatments that could slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease, but alongside this we need to urgently push forward ways of helping people with dementia right now. 

“We believe tech involving people with dementia, for people with dementia, can be a key way of doing this.”

George MacGinnis, healthy ageing challenge director of Innovate UK, also a co-funder of the Longitude Prize on Dementia, said: “The UK has an ageing population with more than 11million people over 65. With this comes an increase in the number of people living with dementia. 

“Assistive technologies that can deploy artificial intelligence to adapt to the changing needs of people living with dementia could offer affordable solutions that help people remain independent in their own homes for many more years than at present. 

“This poll shows the vast majority of family doctors want to prescribe them to their patients with dementia.”

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