New CanAssist technologies ease anxieties related to dementia

As the incidence of dementia increases in our aging population, it’s placing an enormous strain on many Canadian families as they care for those living with the progressive condition.

CanAssist at the University of Victoria—which develops innovative assistive technologies—is now ready to field test two new devices to ease some of that pressure and help people with dementia remain in their own homes for as long as safely possible.

The “Wandering Redirect System” aims to reduce nighttime wandering, a common behaviour among people with dementia and often a big safety concern for caregivers. “The system can increase the person’s safety and independence, while alleviating the concerns of family members,” says Leo Spalteholz, CanAssist’s engineering manager.

The system uses everyday computer tablets to reinforce the time of day for an individual with dementia. At night, it delivers personalized video and audio messages to redirect individuals when they approach a home exit at inappropriate times. During the day, the system can display a calendar of events, including audio reminders of upcoming tasks and appointments.

The “Phone-in Monitoring System” enables caregivers to remotely keep tabs on an individual’s activities in the home. It uses a standard land line phone and small, unobtrusive wireless sensors to provide information on an individual’s activity when he or she is home alone.

Simply by placing a phone call, the caregiver receives an automated summary of activity, such as “the bed has been occupied since 2:30 p.m.” or “the last activity was detected in the kitchen five minutes ago,” and so on. “It gives caregivers peace of mind when they leave their loved one at home alone,” says Spalteholz.

The development of both technologies is funded by the BC Ministry of Health.

CanAssist is now looking for volunteer families that include someone with early-stage dementia to test one (or both) of the new technologies. The technologies would be installed by the CanAssist team at no cost to eligible families. In return, families would be asked to provide feedback on the technology’s effectiveness and could keep the device at no charge for as long as it was useful.

“The feedback we get from volunteer families will be a tremendous help in our long-term goal to make life safer for people with dementia, and less stressful for their caregivers,” says Spalteholz.

Up to 15 per cent of Canadians aged 65 years and older are living with some form of dementia, and this number is expected to double by 2031.

CanAssist at UVic is dedicated to helping people of all ages and from across the disability spectrum to increase their independence and quality of life. CanAssist’s professional team develops customized technologies and innovative programs where there are gaps in existing services, while providing meaningful opportunities for student, faculty and community engagement.

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Media contacts

Leo Spalteholz (Engineering Manager, CanAssist) at 250-721-6649 or

Anne Tolson (Communications Manager, CanAssist) at 250-721-8730 or

In this story

Keywords: CanAssist, aging, technology, engineering, mental health, dementia

People: Leo Spalteholz

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