‘My mum, 89, has dementia but remembers names like never before thanks to tech’

Rachel Haworth (left) cares for her mother, Brenda, who was diagnosed with a form of dementia (Picture: AbilityNet)

Rachel Haworth, 53, from Southampton, knew exactly what the next 10 years was going to be like for her and her mother.

Having spent her life working as a professional carer, Rachel knew she would soon have to be caring for her mother Brenda after she first showed signs of dementia.

By 2020, Brenda was diagnosed with vascular dementia – a condition caused by a blockage or injury to blood vessels in the brain that deprives it of nutrients – following the death of her husband Gerry.

Memory problems, slowed thinking, confusion, concentration difficulties and trouble organising thoughts and tasks are common symptoms.

But Rachel says that modern technology like tablets has transformed her mother’s day-to-day life, making living with dementia a little bit easier.

‘The positive change in her over the last year or so has been remarkable – a real turnaround we never thought we’d see,’ she says.

‘She keeps up with current affairs and remembers names in a way she couldn’t even a year ago.’

Many caregivers surveyed by BT Group said they struggle to make the best use of technology in their routines (Picture: Getty Images)

Rachel, who now cares for her 89-year-old mother full-time, isn’t alone. Two-thirds of people who care for someone with dementia believe technology can enhance the quality of life of those living with the condition, according to new research by BT Group.

From setting up reminders and alarms for taking medication to playing calming music, the telecoms company found that smartphones are especially vital.

‘As a family, we’ve gone from a world where everything was pen and paper to one where tech plays a crucial role in our daily lives,’ said Rachel.

‘We now use tech for basic things like setting up alerts for medication, booking appointments and staying in touch with the carers who support me.

‘They’re simple but they make such a big difference to ensure we’re all on the same page and are essential to helping mum enjoy a good quality of life.

‘My mum also has a tablet now, which she uses to play games, which are great for her mind – she uses messenger as well, which means she can call her grandkids whenever she likes.’

Around four in 10 caregivers have no idea how to best use technology, however. More than half feel there isn’t enough training on how to use it.

Technology has been found by researchers to be transformative for those diagnosed with dementia (Picture: Getty Images)

More than 944,000 people in Britain live with dementia. One in 11 people over 65 has been diagnosed with the condition.

There are now more people than ever with dementia, with experts estimating the number of those with the condition will rise to 1,700,000 by 2040.

But this rise isn’t due to the lack of effective treatments or preventive strategies – people are simply living longer.

Caregivers who support someone with dementia have long reported high rates of anxiety and depression.

Technology, researchers have found, can help ease this. Not only supporting independence but also giving carers peace of mind.

‘Technology holds so much potential to enhance the lives of older people and those living with dementia and cognitive disabilities,’ said Victoria Johnson, Social Impact Director at BT Group.

Rachel says her mother plays games on her tablet (Picture: AbilityNet)

‘Yet our research shows getting to grips with tech can be daunting for carers.’

BT Group found that 43% of carers believe they lack the skills required to use tech. Nearly a third feel overwhelmed by how to use it.

Johnson said this is why the charity AbilityNet is hosting a free webinar with the support of BT Group next Wednesday (July 10).

Sarah Brain, head of free services, AbilityNet, said: ‘Technology can be a real ally in dementia care, but if you don’t know what’s out there or how to use it then it’s daunting for carers and those living with dementia.

‘At AbilityNet, we assist older and disabled individuals by providing advice, support, and training with tech.

‘This upcoming webinar on 10 July is an excellent starting point to help carers explore available resources, and see how, together with BT Group, we can empower them with the knowledge and tools they need.’

Rachel says her mother’s condition has improved since she began using technology more.

‘Embracing technology isn’t just about convenience; it’s about preserving independence and dignity,’ says Rachel.

‘I’ve seen how tech has given mum a sense of empowerment and connection that I would never have thought possible.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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