Former carer, Cecilia Toole reflects on DAA technology event

Monday 4 June 2018

My reflections on the experience and privilege to represent TIDE by speaking at the Dementia Action Alliance event on Technology are something I will always cherish.

At the event I spoke about how we as a family, in a home setting, used aids and adaptations to basically make life easier for my family member. Technology means different things to different people and we heard about the many ways it can assist at the event. In 1937 the American sociologist Read Bain wrote that,

"Technology includes all tools, machines, utensils, weapons, instruments, housing, clothing, communicating and transporting devices and the skills by which we produce and use them."[17]

Bain's definition remains common among scholars today, especially social scientists. As a society we know that we can always learn and improve - our history has taught us this in relation to the world of dementia and every individual life that it touches.

Sometimes the very simple things in life give the greatest pleasure; to be able to look at a watch or a clock and know what time it is, and more importantly to have the vision to do this. One of the many aids my family member used because of a visual impairment was a talking watch. It’s vital to remember that when learning new skills because of health changes, the correct tools must be introduced by the right practitioner. Complex pieces of technology can also empower individuals, however a simple device such as a baby monitor can be just as effective today. Technology can promote and enable independence, health and well-being, not only for a person living with dementia but also the carer, such as a power assisted wheelchair which complemented my own needs at the time.

This leads me to consider communication, something we can all take for granted as the journey of dementia progresses. Communication is at the heart of basic human desire that connects people such as our loved ones, family, friends and others. Technology is vital in our everyday lives, even when we don’t realise it; it can also range from very simple to scientifically challenging. My personal opinion and experience is that no science in this world, no technological advancements, will ever take the place of the human contact and spirit, especially at the delicate, precious time when our loved ones, including ourselves, are nearing the end of a journey.

To now have a voice as a former carer has given me a greater depth of responsibility and I am still humble that my experience previously as a carer for my family member is so highly valued and, more importantly, heard as a member of TIDE. Every carer previously, presently and in the future will now be able to be involved, if they choose, to become part of an organisation that empowers and values carers of people living with dementia. I can say with pride that the support I’ve had from the TIDE team, the opportunities I’ve been given, such as speaking at the DAA Event, and the quality of the training courses they provide gives validation and hope for the thousands of ordinary carers and former carers on an extraordinary journey. Thank you TIDE!

Read the DAA's write-up of the event