Wondering why our team got involved with RITA?
Read on below…
Read on below…
Here is a photo of myself and my mum who is 83. She has osteoarthritis and Alzheimer’s. Her Alzheimer’s has progressed quite rapidly in the last 6 months and she has deteriorated a lot, both mentally and physically.
I am involved in the RITA project because I see three specific challenges older people, such as my mum, face.
Loss of muscle tone, flexibility and stability.
When my mum has been getting up and down, out of her chair, and walking even short distances regularly, throughout the day, her mobility improves greatly. When she is left sitting in one place for hours at a time, she cannot physically get herself out of her armchair and walk, and when she is helped to get up, each step forward is a struggle. She used to say, “Use it or lose it.” and make a special effort to go out walking each day, even though it was sometimes painful. Now that her Alzheimer’s has progressed she no longer has the ability to self-motivate. Thinking ahead, I would definitely set up RITA to prompt me to get up and exercise when I could no longer remember to do this myself, maintaining my mobility as long as I could.
Having nothing useful to do, lacking purpose.
Everything is done ‘for’ my mum or ‘to’ my mum now. Because of her memory loss she needs help with personal care and everyday tasks are done for her, often because she cannot remember to do them herself. She herself says that she is ‘no use to anyone anymore.’ When I think ahead, I am sure that if I could set RITA to encourage me to continue doing something very simple, which I had done all my life (such as peeling potatoes) I would retain my abilities and sense of usefulness for longer. RITA would use her intelligent affective system to monitor my performance and encourage me if I seemed to get stuck with what I was doing.
Stimulation and conversation
When you are losing (or have lost) your short-term memory, conversation is both difficult and confusing. I can see that it takes some time for my mum to engage when she hasn’t had any conversation for a while. It is like she has to come out of her daze and make a real effort to focus on what is being said and respond appropriately. When she has been talking for a while her ability to converse improves dramatically. Mostly what helps her engage in conversation is talking about things that happened in the distant past, or particularly singing songs from the past.
I would set RITA to engage me in conversation throughout the day to maintain fluency of communication and comprehension. I recognise that I would have to put information into RITA’s database about my past history and preferences to enable this conversation to be relevant and meaningful for me.
For me the reasons for developing Rita are personal.
We are a very close family and all loved my mum dearly. She enjoyed our successes and mopped away the tears at the failures. This picture was taken prior to my PhD ceremony. She was so proud.
When she had her first stroke the whole family looked after her. For us as a family, Rita would have been a fantastic tool to have co-ordinated information between carers who came in 3x a day, health staff including the stroke nurse who visited weekly, her GP and the out of hours GP as well as the warden in the assisted living accommodation she was in.
She would have loved the idea of Rita and for me it is a practical dedication to her memory.
My father in law had a stroke which left him unable to talk and walk. He was a very talented and practical man and for him the most poignant part of his life was his time in the Royal Air Corps. For him Rita would have been an amazing repository for information to jog his memory of these special times, including where he was posted and the aircraft he was involved with. Undoubtedly his Rita avatar would have had to have looked like his wife Anne, who he adored to the end.
My lovely mum Jill, trying out kayaking at the age of 72. Not every older adult wants to sit in a day centre knitting.
I consider myself lucky. I have not yet had to watch a parent or other loved one deteriorate to the point where they are unable to care for themselves. My mother-in-law Rita is an inspiring woman. She is now in her eighties, but still plays tennis and walks regularly in the New Forest. She has an amazing memory, for past and current events, and is a much loved grandmother to our children. My father-in-law David is equally fit and healthy, still a wonderful friend and father to my husband, and as active and mentally agile as many men half his age.
My own parents have also been fortunate with their health. My beautiful Mum Jill regularly caters for dozens of local friends and ex-pats in the Spanish mountain village where she has lived for the past 20 years. She skis in the Sierra Nevada when she can, and locals are astounded when they see her arrive at the bottom of an “experts-only” slope and remove her helmet and goggles to reveal a great-grandmother. She is an amazing, selfless and generous person, and each year that I know her, I understand and love her more. My father James is not as fit and agile as he once was, but still retains his phenomenal intellect and his deep love for music, and spends many hours writing, lecturing or just relaxing with his beloved dogs.
I can only imagine what it would be like for any one of these people to lose their independence, their clear thinking, their health or their memories, and have to rely on strangers to take care of them. Someone who doesn’t know their histories, personalities or families. Not understanding Jill’s love of the mountains, or the comfort and peace James finds in beautiful music.
I want RITA to understand that their lives are about more than being fed and clothed. I want her to chat to them about their day, about their grandchildren. To show them pictures or music to inspire or encourage them. To notice when they are feeling sad or lonely and understand how to help. To ensure that they continue to see friends, to go out, and to make the most of every day in the way in which they would want to, not to succumb to a routine imposed by an institution which knows only their name.