BELMONT, Mass. – The use of tablets is a potentially effective way to manage agitation among patients with dementia, a pilot study suggests.
“The biggest advantage is versatility,” said Dr. Ipsit Vahia, medical director of Geriatric Psychiatry Outpatient Services at McLean Hospital, in a statement. “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.”
Researchers loaded a menu of 70 apps on tablets for the study. They found that use of the tablet was safe for every patient, regardless of the severity of their dementia, and that with proper supervision and training, the engagement rates with the devices was nearly 100%.
The study also found that the tablets demonstrated significant effectiveness in reducing symptoms of agitation, particularly, but not exclusively, in patients with milder forms of dementia.
“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,” said Vahia.
The hospital will expand the use of tablet devices as a means to control agitation in dementia patients at McLean. Researchers hope to develop more robust data and expand the scope of the study, including a focus on specific clinical factors that may impact how patients with dementia engage with and respond to apps.