Research published in the The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry has confirmed the effectiveness of using tablet computers to support people with dementia.
It’s thought they’re useful because they offer the opportunity to use technology easily for both personal and professional carers, and for the person 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, said Ipsit Vahia, medical director of Geriatric Psychiatry Outpatient Services at McLean, the psychiatric hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School.
In plain English, this means tablets, such as an iPad, are a useful treatment which doesn’t involve drug use, and can be used to enhance care for people at all stages of dementia.
The research built on previous studies looking into how art, music and other therapies can reduce symptoms of agitation in dementia. When tablet computers are used to deliver these therapies, they benefit all involved, largely thanks to a simple interface and flexibility for the carer.
‘The biggest advantage is versatility,’ said Vahia. ‘We know that art therapy can work, music therapy can work. The tablet, however, gives you the option of switching from one app to another easily, modifying the therapy seamlessly to suit the individual. You don’t need to invest in new equipment or infrastructure.’
The researchers found that tablet use was safe for every patient, regardless of the severity of their dementia, and that with proper supervision and training, the engagement rate with the devices was nearly 100 percent. The study also found that the tablets demonstrated significant effectiveness in reducing symptoms of agitation.
One example cited was a patient who only spoke Romanian, was very withdrawn and irritable, and medications were ineffective in controlling his symptoms.
‘We started showing him Romanian video clips on YouTube, and his behaviour changed dramatically and instantaneously,’ said Vahia.
‘His mood improved. He became more interactive. He and his medical support team also started using a translation app so that staff could ask him simple questions in Romanian, facilitating increased interaction. These significant improvements are a clear testament of the tablet’s potential as a clinical tool.’