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A research study by Ulster University has revealed significant support for the use of video surveillance technology in the homes of those living with dementia to safeguard their health and safety, providing considerations of privacy and consent are taken into account.

With the number of people living with dementia worldwide set to rise to 136 million by 2050, Ulster University’s research explored ethical considerations around the use of camera-based systems. The use of video monitoring in the home has been suggested as one way that families can be reassured that a person living with dementia is safe whilst affording them independence.

As part of Ulster University’s research, people living with dementia and their carers across Northern Ireland took part in a number of focus groups, facilitated by Age NI, to express their views on the ethics of using assistive technology such as video surveillance in the home.

Ulster University’s research indicated conditional acceptance of a video camera in the home of a person living with dementia, with over 90 per cent of participants supporting its use. Participants suggested that it was useful, ethical and moral, providing consent is in place from the person living with the dementia.

Lead researcher from Ulster University, Professor Maurice Mulvenna, said:

“Ulster University is pioneering research into connected health interventions that have the potential to enhance the quality of life for the millions of people across the globe who are living with or affected by dementia.

“There are a number of clear benefits of camera-based technology for both those living with dementia and their carers. It helps those with dementia to live more independently at home for longer while providing peace of mind for their family in terms of their wellbeing.

“This Ulster University research highlights support for the technology, however, it also indicates a need to define home video surveillance clearly so that both carers and those living with dementia are aware of how it works in practice. Our research also found that participants felt that the real-time surveillance or recordings should only be available to family members for review.

“There is much research to be done in this area in order to find a balance between privacy and overall value when it comes to home surveillance of people living with dementia. This Ulster University research is a step in the right direction. Our next steps are to use these findings to seek new research funding to explore video surveillance and its value to family caregivers."

Maura McClean, Engagement Manager at Age NI, said:

“Age NI is committed tocreating a world where everyone can enjoy a better later life and remain as independent as possible with their dignity and rights respected. We are passionate about ensuring the voices of older people shape and influence research practice and policy.’’

Age NI has produced a summary of the pilot research study which has been distributed to older people who took part in the research.