" Our preliminary results are a first step in developing much-needed empirical data for clinicians and caregivers on how to use technology such as tablets as tools to enhance care. "
‘Apps’ reducing symptoms associated with dementia

A pilot trial has found that the use of a selection of approximately 70 different apps, downloaded onto a Tablet device, was an effective way of managing agitation for people with dementia.

During the trial, published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 36 participants, all of whom had a form of dementia, were provided with tablets when agitated.

The participants would use various apps relating to communication, games, web browsing and photography and the nursing staff would note down the frequency, duration of app usage along with the type of apps they selected and whether any changes in behaviour were identified.

After analysing the results, the research team noted that regardless of the severity of the dementia symptoms, all participants could use the apps. Two important findings noted were that app complexity related to the severity of the dementia, so people who were more progressed in symptoms chose less complex apps to use, while age was associated with how long participants used the tablet for and how often, so the older the participant, the less often they used the tablet.

Dr Ipsit Vahia from the McLean Hospital where the trial was run said that the study suggests that the use of tablet devices is both a safe and a potentially effective approach to managing agitation among people with dementia.

“Tablet use as a nonpharmacologic intervention for agitation in older adults, including those with severe dementia, appears to be feasible, safe, and of potential utility,” Dr Vahia said.

“Our preliminary results are a first step in developing much-needed empirical data for clinicians and caregivers on how to use technology such as tablets as tools to enhance care and also for app developers working to serve the technologic needs of this population.”

This research builds upon previous studies demonstrating that art, music, and other similar therapies can effectively reduce symptoms of dementia without medication. By using tablet devices to employ these therapies, however, participants and providers also benefit from a computer’s inherent flexibility.

Based on these outcomes, the research team is expanding the use of tablet devices as a means to control agitation in people with dementia at the McLean Hospital. This will allow researchers to develop more robust data and expand the scope of the study, including a focus on specific clinical factors that may impact how people with dementia engage with and respond to apps.

 Posted: February 1st, 2017
Discussion

Judy Harbison said:

how can we access a list of apps that are useful for those living with dementia? Also, how can an i-pad screen be made safe regarding being dropped or otherwise damaged by an 80 yo wit moderate dementia?

Linda Morse said:

A link or more information regarding this document would be appreciated. Dr. Vahia is a geriatric psychiatrist whose specialty appears to be schizophrenia. It is hard to understand without further information how individuals with mild to severe dementia related agitation would be able to use a tablet app. The edited findings indicate that age and severity of dementia are limiting factors. It is questionable how someone with severe dementia, for example a person who is unable to remember from day-to-day how to use the remote for the TV would benefit, especially when agitated. Additionally the abstract does not specify types or stages of dementia. Thirty-six people is a very small study group. The abstract states "Methods -Thirty-six patients at a geriatric psychiatry inpatient unit were provided with tablets when agitated and used various apps on the tablet related to communication, games, music, web browser, and photography during their stay. Study staff documented the frequency, duration, and app usage history and rated the extent to which agitation improved after tablet use." It would be beneficial to better understand the article, which is not publicly available, to provide more detailed information or a copy of the article. The article is not accessible via my university library as they do not hold last year’s copies of the Journal nor is it available without payment via any of the search engines.

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