Best Practice Guidance
Human Interaction with Technology in Dementia

themes: Applications

Practical, cognitive & social factors to improve usability of technology for people with dementia

Technologies are increasingly vital in today’s activities in homes and communities. Nevertheless, little attention has been given to the consequences of the increasing complexity and reliance on them, for example, at home, in shops, traffic situations, meaningful activities and health care services. The users’ ability to manage products and services has been largely neglected or taken for granted. People with dementia often do not use the available technology because it does not match their needs and capacities. This section provides recommendations to improve the usability of technology used in daily life, for meaningful activities, in healthcare and in the context of promoting the Social Health of people with dementia.
Health care technologies

Applications promoting the effective use of electronic records are required


Applications that should be incorporated into EPR systems used in nursing homes providing care for people with dementia include a spell-check, a copy and paste function and a keyword search function. Log-in processes should be rapid and secure.

Explanation and Examples

The presence of a spell-check has been described as saving time on proofreading, as well as increasing legibility and comprehension of documentation. This allows for more time to be spent with residents with dementia in direct care, and for correct care to be provided. A copy and paste function also saves time by allowing staff to easily transfer information across sections of the EPR where information is often required to be replicated. A keyword function allows staff to enter a keyword and jump to the relevant section in a resident’s notes, allowing for more efficient retrieval of information, important in situations when a resident is unable to recall personal information. Rapid log-in processes should reduce barriers to using the EPR, as slow log-in processes have been found to prevent staff from accessing information about residents before delivering care, and have meant staff have been forced to pass on information about residents verbally instead of entering it into the EPR. This may mean important information regarding any sudden changes in an individual’s condition might be missed.

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Social Health Domain 2: Manage ones own life and promote independence

Privacy policies of health apps and websites should be (re-)written and (re-)designed to promote cognitive accessibility


Policy-makers and developers of apps and websites, particularly those for people with cognitive impairment or dementia, should review and improve the cognitive accessibility of privacy policies associated with apps and websites. Privacy information should be available in the official language of each country in which the app or website is available. Navigation to information should be promoted by simple, attention-focusing user interface design. Length and linguistic complexity of information in the privacy policy should be limited, or the information should be summarized.

Explanation and Examples

Cognitive accessibility conceptualizes the extent to which digital services are simple, consistent, clear, multimodal, error-tolerant, and attention-focusing to use, taking into account all users.

Online data privacy is an important legal and ethical issue, and an important concern of many (potential) app-users, which may impact on their adoption of digital tools and services. The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) protects people’s right to access information about how their data is processed, so that they can make informed choices, but there are concerns that many privacy policies are too long, too complex and sometimes not even available. This may reduce trust in digital tools, presenting a barrier to adoption.

A cross-sectional study found that, in the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK:

  • Most health and wellness apps sampled outside the UK did not have a privacy policy available in the official language of the user’s country
  • Almost no privacy policies met reading level benchmarks, meaning the language was too complex for the average native speaker to understand.
  • The time that it would take the average adult native speaker to read each privacy policy was 10 minutes (websites) to 12 minutes (apps).

Recommendations to improve the cognitive accessibility of online privacy information have been made. An example of a privacy policy designed largely in line with these recommendations is the privacy policy of the FindMyApps project, which can be found on the project website:

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Implementation of technology in dementia care: facilitators & barriers

Successful implementation of technology in dementia care depends not merely on its effectiveness but also on other facilitating or impeding factors related to e.g. the personal living environment (privacy, autonomy and obtrusiveness); the outside world (stigma and human contact); design (personalisability, affordability and safety), and ethics on these subjects.  This section provides recommendations on the implementation of technology in everyday life, for meaningful activities, healthcare technology and technology promoting Social Health.
Technology for meaningful activities

Focus on aspects that are of interest to people with dementia when introducing a new technology


Introduce new application (app) technology to a person with dementia by focusing on aspects that are likely to encourage their interest, such as family photographs, video calls with friends and family, music, games, or art applications.


This guidance is based on a review of the literature on the use of touchscreen technology by people with dementia and carers.


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