Assisting People with Early Stage Dementia: Monitoring Wandering

PJ McCullagh, Juan Carlos Augusto, H Zheng, Maurice Mulvenna, HY Wang, William Carswell, Jonathan Wallace, Suzanne Martin, Paul Jeffers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Objective A symptom often associated with early stage dementia is themisunderstanding of context. This may be inability to match activities of dailyliving to time of day and can manifest by wandering behaviour, at dusk or duringnighttime. This behaviour is certainly inconvenient to the carer, but can bedangerous should the person trip, misuse a domestic appliance (e.g. cooker) orleave the dwelling. Technology has been used to assist people with dementia.Commercial systems deploy sensors that can raise an alarm and allow a remotecarer to intervene via an intercom, for example. In this work we seek to extend thetechnology to provide reassurance and guidance to the client. In this case the clientcan be the person with dementia, but the beneficiary may also be their carer.Main Content A person may engage with wandering behaviour, possibly becausethey forget their intended goal. This is of course exacerbated by early stagedementia. Sensors such as movement detectors can trigger actuators to providelighting guidance, for example. Reasoning systems use rules and utilize context todecide whether the recorded behaviour is intended and legitimate or unintendedand 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. Inthis case the reasoning system may need to utilize context to provide a reasonableresult, and hence compensate for the misunderstanding by the individual.Results In this study, which has been undertaken in the Nocturnal project, wediscuss the use of software agents, which monitor ‘restlessness’ and ‘wandering’to determine the rules for subsequent intervention. The intervention should beinitially advisory, e.g. using lighting to guide a wandering person back to thebedroom during the hours of darkness. However there should be an in-built safetyprocedure, which alerts a carer, should the person ignore advice and potentially puthimself or herself in a harmful situation. The guidance technology supports thecarer, and seeks to assist the cared for person, in a beneficial manner.Conclusion The technology to implement sensing and guidance is available. Inorder to utilize this technology for assistance with early stage dementia requiresthe development of supporting software (agents) and rules of engagement. In anycase the necessity of back up assistance, a human carer, is still a requirement.
Original languageEnglish
EditorsGert Jan Gelderblom, Mathijs Soede, Leon Adriaens, Klaus Miesenberge
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherIOS Press
ISBN (Print)978-1-60750-813-7
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Sept 2011


  • Dementia
  • Wandering
  • Guidance
  • Software Agents.


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