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Tablets therapy for dementia

Tablet devices may prove helpful at relaxing agitated dementia patients, says a new study

Researchers loaded a menu of 70 apps on to the tablets for the study.
Researchers loaded a menu of 70 apps on to the tablets for the study.

Using tablets for music or art therapies may be a safe and potentially effective approach to manage agitation among patients with dementia, according to a new study.

“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," says Ipsit Vahia from McLean Hospital in the US. “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...," adds Vahia, who led the study.

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

“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," he says.

Researchers loaded a menu of 70 apps on to the tablets for the study. The apps varied in cognitive complexity, ranging from an app that displayed puppy photos to one that featured Sudoku puzzles. The researchers found that tablet use was safe for every patient, regardless of the severity of dementia, and that with proper supervision and training, the engagement rate with the devices was nearly 100%. The study also found that the tablets demonstrated significant effectiveness in reducing symptoms of agitation.

Vahia cited several examples of the tablet’s potential to improve a patient’s condition. One particular patient, who only spoke Romanian, was withdrawn and irritable, and medications were ineffective in controlling his symptoms.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. His mood improved. He became more interactive," he says, adding, “These improvements are a testament of the tablet’s potential as a clinical tool."

The research was published in The American Journal Of Geriatric Psychiatry.

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