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Empirical studies on the effectiveness of assistive technology in the care of people with dementia: a systematic review

Richard Fleming (Professor Richard Fleming is based at NSW/ACT Dementia Training Study Centre, School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia.)
Shima Sum (Shima Sum is an Assistant Professor, based at Discipline of Social Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Babol University of Medical Sciences, Babol, Iran.)

Journal of Assistive Technologies

ISSN: 1754-9450

Article publication date: 12 March 2014




The purpose of this paper is to assess the empirical support for the use of assistive technology in the care of people with dementia as an intervention to improve independence, safety, communication, wellbeing and carer support.


A total of 232 papers were identified as potentially relevant. Inclusion criteria were: studies published between 1995 and 2011, incorporated a control group, pre-test-post-test, cross sectional or survey design, type of interventions and types of participants. The 41 papers that met criteria were subjected to an assessment of their validity using the model provided by Forbes. Following the assessment seven papers were considered as strong, ten moderate and 24 weak. The review is presented around the following topics: independence, prompts and reminders; safety and security; leisure and lifestyle, communication and telehealth; and therapeutic interventions.


The literature exploring the use of assistive technologies for increasing independence and compensating for memory problems illustrate the problems of moving from the laboratory to real life. The studies are usually limited by very small samples, high drop-out rates, very basic statistical analyses and lack of adjustment for multiple comparisons and poor performance of the technology itself.


Research to date has been unable to establish a positive difference to the lives of people with dementia by the general use of the assistive technology reviewed here.



This review was supported by a grant from the Primary Dementia Collaborative Research Centre, UNSW as part of the Australian Government's Dementia: A Health Priority National Initiative.

Suzanne Martin, lecturer at the School of Health Sciences in the University of Ulster, provided thorough and thoughtful comments on a late draft and helped to clarify the descriptions of some of the studies.

Professor Henry Brodaty, Director of the Primary Dementia Collaborative Research Centre, reviewed the paper during its development and provided valuable guidance and support.


Fleming, R. and Sum, S. (2014), "Empirical studies on the effectiveness of assistive technology in the care of people with dementia: a systematic review", Journal of Assistive Technologies, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 14-34.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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