Smart Socks on trial at The Old Rectory.

Residents at The Old Rectory who are living with dementia have been taking part in research into the effects of wearing special socks aimed at tracking the effects of anxiety and distress.

The socks act as an early warning system for people who may not be able to identify and self-regulate episodes of emotional upset, alerting their carers so that they can step in and stop  events escalating.

Smart Socks Comfort have an embedded sensor in one sock that captures data in real time on the physiological indicators of an emotionally-aroused state, such as elevated heart rate, skin temperature and agitated movement.  If they rise, the socks send signals to an app, which then alerts a carer.

The manufacturers of the socks say that they can be useful in care homes where carers need to track the wellbeing  of multiple residents at the same time.and may experience burn-out due to distressed resident behaviour.

The socks are the brainchild of Dr Zeke Steer, a specialist in robotics and artificial intelligence. He came up with the idea after witnessing his great-grandmother’s journey with dementia. Dr Steer designed the socks as a more practical and comfortable alternative to a wrist-worn device.

The manager of the Old Rectory, Kerry Dempsey, says: “At the Old Rectory, we specialise in dementia care and our residents have a range of needs, including physical and cognitive impairments. Any form of technology which helps those who struggle to communicate is very welcome.”

The research is supported by the Exeter NIHR Biomedical Research Centre.Dr Byron Creese of the University of Exeter, says: “Smart Socks addresses the huge clinical need for effective and safe management of agitation, pain and distress in dementia.”

Margot Whittaker, Director of Nursing and Compliance at Southern Healthcare, says: “The idea of Smart Socks is an excellent way forward to help detect when a person is staring to feel anxious or fearful. At Southern Healthcare, we are always looking at ways of improving the experience for our residents, and we are committed to ensuring evidence-based care. This pilot certainly contributes to that goal.”