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Widower with dementia says smart speakers have changed his life

David Stace says he does not feel as lonely now he is using Google Home.

An elderly widower who was diagnosed with dementia after his wife was hit by a car said discovering the latest technology has given him a new lease of life.

David Stace said he will never forget the moment he saw Pamela, his beloved partner of more than 40 years, sliding down the windscreen of a moving car and the “intense loneliness” that followed after she died the next day in hospital.

The shock of the crash in January 2017 left him with post traumatic stress syndrome.

He also started to forget names, struggle with numbers and frequently lose keys.

A year later he was diagnosed with both Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia and worried for the future.

But determined not to let the condition defeat him, he experimented with smart speakers after being inspired by a television advert.

The 84-year-old, of Eastbourne, East Sussex, said he is “amazed” at how they have helped and he now feels safer and not as lonely.

Marking Dementia Action Week, he spoke for the first time about his ordeal in a bid to urge others to not give up on life after diagnosis.

The retired printer salesman told the Press Association: “After the accident I was completely lost.

“Pam and I were walking home from our shop.

“The next minute, I saw this figure lying on the top of the car that then slid onto the ground, and it was Pam.

“She was one of those fantastic people who could do anything.

“She will never be forgotten.

“The loneliness is so intense when you have been with someone for over 40 years.

“I’d like to bring her back, but I can’t. I want to keep Pam alive in my heart.

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“Everyday I think of her.”

Neighbour Kerry Scarsbrook was spared jail in October after admitting death by careless driving when she knocked down 69-year-old Mrs Stace.

The carer was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and was disqualified from driving for 12 months.

The symptoms of dementia came “hot on the heels of the tragedy”, according to his carer Jason Nicholls.

Mr Stace said: “I noticed a change when I couldn’t remember numbers and names.

“I was hopeless at writing lists and losing them.”

He was left feeling “overwhelmed and confused” when he was diagnosed a year after his wife’s death.

He said: “It wasn’t properly explained. I didn’t come out feeling I knew the answer.

“You tend to feel that’s the end of life, that’s where people get very down.”

Then he discovered Google Home.

Mr Stace said: “I thought it would be good for me because of the loneliness and emptiness.

“I have always liked messing about with computers when they went wrong.

“I was really set on it. I said it was time I had a go myself.

“I was amazed. I’d never seen anything like it before, it was fantastic.”

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He now has smart speakers in each room of his house.

They turn on the lights and radio in the morning before he gets out of bed, remind him to take medication and eat throughout the day as well as attend appointments.

He can make shopping lists, phone calls, and recites the television listings.

It is even linked to his Netflix account.

Whenever he is missing his late wife, the ability to call up pictures of her on a screen quickly is “heartening”, he said.

Asking his virtual assistant what is in store for the day helps him look forward to his hobbies of walking, visiting the beach and singing in a church choir.

He added: “The technology came a long way to making me feel safer. I think the smart speakers are great for people like myself.”

Mr Nicholls was initially dubious, fearing the gadget would be too complicated, but was converted after seeing the improvement in Mr Stace.

He said: “David has become really good at it.

“The technology behind it seems to me to wait for him to finish speaking and adapt, so he uses it a lot and doesn’t get frustrated. It’s more like a conversation.

“He is absolutely fascinated with how it all works. He has started to have fun.”

Mr Nicholls visits Mr Stace every day as part of two-man band The Eastbourne Edge Project, which provides personalised council-funded care.

He now feels similar gadgets and helpful neighbours who “rally around” are crucial for modern day support in the wake of grave cuts to dementia services.

Mr Stace added: “It’s essential people know it’s nothing to worry about. You can live with it.

“You shouldn’t let dementia stop you doing anything, with modern technology you can do anything you like.”

Buoyed by his experience, he has now set his sights on a smart watch and a cruise around the world.

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