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An ethical framework for the use of surveillance technology to ensure that dementia patients can retain their dignity and lead a safe life

Researchers from Aarhus University, in partnership with VIVE, Aarhus Municipality and Business Academy Aarhus, have received a grant from VELUX FONDEN for a project they call LIVSTEGN (which means “sign of life” in Danish). The project involves close collaboration between researchers, dementia patients, their families and their care staff.

2020.01.09 | Marianne Ester Back

Dementia patients have a tendency to go wandering off. A new research project at Aarhus University aims to ensure the ethical use of surveillance technology to make it possible to find signs of life in dementia patients who have gone wandering off somewhere. (Model photo: Colourbox.com)

Lektor og leder af Center for Overvågningsforskning Anders Albrechtslund står i spidsen for projektet men i tæt samarbejde med pårørende til demente og plejepersonale.

“Dementia patients have a tendency to go wandering off. And sometimes they can’t find their way home again, which is a source of concern both for themselves and for others. There’s a safety issue at stake, too. LIVSTEGN is a project focusing on the ethical use of surveillance technologies to find signs of life in dementia patients who have gone wandering off somewhere,” explains Anders Albrechtslund, an associate professor of information studies who is leading the project.

Among other things, the researchers aim to study and evaluate the use of surveillance systems to ensure the safety of dementia patients exhibiting this type of behaviour. This should help to relieve the concerns of their families and care staff. So the project will be conducted in close collaboration with practitioners and the families of the patients in question.

“We want to include dementia patients, families and care staff in the process so they can help to identify and handle the practical and ethical challenges, as well as testing surveillance technologies and procedures,” explains Albrechtslund.

New legislation makes surveillance technology legal

The project deals with an issue which is becoming increasingly urgent. The number of Danes above the age of 60 suffering from dementia is on the increase. It is estimated that at least 89,000 Danes suffer from dementia, a figure which is expected to double by the year 2040. The project has also been aided by the introduction of new legislation in this field. Albrechtslund explains:

“In the past, the use of surveillance technology for dementia patients was regarded as the exercise of power and required specific authorisation under the watchful eye of the authorities. But a change in the legislation now allows the use of safety-related welfare technology when treating dementia patients.”  

LIVSTEGN is firmly anchored in the research field of information studies, which has a long tradition of working with the implementation of technology in the social field.

“Our approach to technology is based on the assumption that its development and use is influenced by (and influences) the specific situations and environments for which it is intended. The field of surveillance research is connected to information studies and sociology and plays a vital role in this project, which focuses on the social, political and ethical consequences of surveillance in various contexts,” concludes Albrechtslund.   

The project will run for four years, starting on 1 January 2020.


Facts

“LIVSTEGN: Surveillance technologies to ensure a safe and dignified life with dementia” has received funding of DKK 4,972,565 from VELUX FONDEN. VELUX FONDEN is a philanthropic foundation that supports scientific, cultural, social and environmental projects with a view to promoting the democratic society of Denmark on an informed, inclusive and sustainable basis. The foundation also supports active senior citizens and gerontology and ophthalmology research

For more information:

Read the press release from VELUX FONDEN: Fælles forskningsprojekter kigger nærmere på vores liv og hverdag (in Danish only)


Contact

Associate Professor Anders Albrechtslund
Director of the Center for Surveillance Studies
School of Communication and Culture, Information Studies
Mobile: +45 2163 0388
Mail: alb@cc.au.dk

Grant, Health and disease, Afd. for Digital Design og Informationsvidenskab, Arts