Technology for Monitoring People with Dementia Who Wander at Night

Award Date: 2017

Project Lead(s): Frank Knoefel

Project Title: Cognitive Impairment: Technology to Monitor Night-Time Wandering Amongst Persons with Dementia

What is the issue?

People with dementia may wander or unintentionally leave home at night. These behaviours cause broken sleep for caregivers and anxiety about whether they should place their loved ones in long-term care.

What did we do?

We tested a monitoring system that detected when a person with dementia left their bed and guided them to the washroom with lights and sounds. It notified the caregiver with a text message or audio alarm if their loved one opened an outside door. The technology consisted of a pressure-sensitive bed mat, together with motion and contact sensors and a notification system made by Samsung SmartThings. We tested the system with 19 older adults living with dementia in the community for 12 weeks.

What did we find?

Caregivers got 1.5 more hours of sleep each night and experienced reduced depression and anxiety. Many of them said they felt better because they knew the system would alert them if they were needed. We need to fix a few technical errors, but overall, the system guided people with dementia back to bed well. They also reported reduced levels of anxiety and depression. The monitoring system costs $800, much less per month than an estimated cost of $3,352 fee for placing a loved one in a retirement home with assisted living support.