Anxiety in dementia patients may be effectively managed with tablet devices, according to research findings. Researcher Ipsit Vahia explained, “Tablet use as a non-pharmacologic intervention for agitation in older adults, including those with severe dementia, appears to be feasible, safe, and of potential utility. 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.”
The current study builds upon previous research that suggests art, music, and similar therapies can effectively reduce symptoms of anxiety among dementia patients. By utilizing a tablet to administer such therapies, both patients and care providers can benefit from the flexibility of technology.
Vahia added, “The biggest advantage is versatility. 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 loaded 70 apps to a tablet device menu. All apps were free to download and varied in complexity. The researchers found that tablet was safe for each patient to use regardless of the severity of their condition. In fact, when patients were offered proper supervision and training, the engagement rate was extremely high.
Vahia went into detail about the benefits experienced by one particular participant, “We started showing him Romanian video clips on YouTube, and his behavior changed dramatically and instantaneously. 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.”
Because of such positive benefits, the Geriatric Psychiatry Outpatient Services clinical team at McLean Hospital is expanding its use of tablets as a means of reducing agitation and anxiety among dementia patients.