Objective. A symptom often associated with early stage dementia is the misunderstanding of context. This may be inability to match activities of daily living to time of day and can manifest by wandering behaviour, at dusk or during nighttime. This behaviour is certainly inconvenient to the carer, but can be dangerous should the person trip, misuse a domestic appliance (e.g. cooker) or leave the dwelling. Technology has been used to assist people with dementia. Commercial systems deploy sensors that can raise an alarm and allow a remote carer to intervene via an intercom, for example. In this work we seek to extend the technology to provide reassurance and guidance to the client. In this case the client can be the person with dementia, but the beneficiary may also be their carer.
Main Content. A person may engage with wandering behaviour, possibly because they forget their intended goal. This is of course exacerbated by early stage dementia. Sensors such as movement detectors can trigger actuators to provide lighting guidance, for example. Reasoning systems use rules and utilize context to decide whether the recorded behaviour is intended and legitimate or unintended and potentially dangerous. The rules can be preset and supported by collected data. The decision on when and how to intervene in a particular situation is complex. In this case the reasoning system may need to utilize context to provide a reasonable result, and hence compensate for the misunderstanding by the individual.
Results. In this study, which has been undertaken in the Nocturnal project, we discuss the use of software agents, which monitor ‘restlessness’ and ‘wandering’ to determine the rules for subsequent intervention. The intervention should be initially advisory, e.g. using lighting to guide a wandering person back to the bedroom during the hours of darkness. However there should be an in-built safety procedure, which alerts a carer, should the person ignore advice and potentially put himself or herself in a harmful situation. The guidance technology supports the carer, and seeks to assist the cared for person, in a beneficial manner.
Conclusion. The technology to implement sensing and guidance is available. In order to utilize this technology for assistance with early stage dementia requires the development of supporting software (agents) and rules of engagement. In any case the necessity of back up assistance, a human carer, is still a requirement.