Dementia-Friendly Group Video-Conferencing?


Last week I was working at the 2nd North Wales Dementia Meetup (#DementiaNWales). I will blog more about that when I get a chance, and there will be a lot of video content to catch up with soon. But, in the mean time…

I ran a couple of sessions about using technology to make life easier for people with Dementia. In one of the sessions there was an appeal to find a Dementia-friendly group video conferencing app so people can keep in touch with each other.

Personally, I think it must be the case that something suitable already exists. A few months ago I would have confidently said that I think Blab is the one. But then Blab was closed down.

So, is there one that exists, or do we need to invent it? Google Hangouts has been significantly simplified in recent months, but still, when I tried to use it with a group with low levels of digital skills, the majority struggled to access it. Another candidate is HouseParty, an app recently launched by the founders of the demised live streaming app, Meerkat.  Would either of these do the job? Or, of course, there is always Skype, tried and trusted to many now, and offering group video chat as a relatively recent development.

I’d be very interested in people’s views (please leave a comment below) on what the issues are for people with Dementia in accessing group video chat, and whether any of the apps I have suggested might do the job, or does the perfect tool need to be created?

3 thoughts on “Dementia-Friendly Group Video-Conferencing?

  1. It depends on the level and type of dementia. For example, people with Alzheimer’s and people wih vascular dementia can be very different. I now have extensive experience of three cases of vascular dementia: both my parents and my partner’s Mum. In both types people tend to get worse, but in vascular dementia people can have quite a pattern of good days and bad days, and good and bad times of day – earlier in the day is often better, when info seems to be firing across the brain a bit better – and that can go on for years.

    In the earlier days of his dementia my father, who was a keen genealogist – and long revered by the family as their lead and guru – could be got onto a our own family history website at the local library with a computer-savy carer once a week. Together they would look through recent chat and outstanding queries and then the carer would type in comments and replies from my Dad. Occasionally my Dad’s remarks were a bit strange, but sometimes he was really helpful and could sumonse up info which no-one else had and fill in gaps and clear up problems. Later he got angry and upset about doing this, and refused to continue, although we were occasionally able to involve him for brief periods at home for a bit longer. Two weeks before he died though, I was able to show him an online article about the discovery of the remains of Richard III (Another interest.) He was thrilled and manged to scroll down and read the whole piece for himself.

    My Mum’s dementia was worse, and I don’t think she would have got much at all out of trying to work with anyone on a computer, unless this had involved music. She had all her piano grades and had sung in choirs, but also liked a lot of sixtties stuff. She could sing along to – and even play – well-known tunes long after most of her other marbles had gone. She might have enjoyed a selection of YouTube recordings of old songs and short classical pieces and could possibly, with support, have hit the right buttons to re-play some of her favourites.

    My partner’s Mum might also have enjoyed accessing music on computer in the early stages of her dementia. Not so sure about now, but again I think possibly a selection of YouTube clips – carefully managed by someone else – might have benefits – she still adores David Attenborough vids and likes TV progs with dancing in them, and for a long time she seemed to enjoy a digital moving photograph show of family members, which she had permanently on a small screen nearby.

    However, I am talking about three people who grew up long, long before the introduction of the computer. (b. 1918, 1923, 1924) We now have an upcoming generation of older people who are used to computers. I guess their continued use of computers in dementia may be different, and sometimes more natural.

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