A recent study explored how therapy may be improved for older adults living with dementia by incorporating personalized technology.
Researchers tested an interactive technology platform for enhancing engagement in therapies for older adults living with dementia. The platform uses a person-centered approach to provide individualized content to patients, such as activities, puzzles, music, and videos. Older adults receiving treatment for dementia in two senior living communities participated in the study. In one community, 47 older adults participated in the technology-based intervention, while 49 older adults from the other community participated in a similar, treatment-as-usual intervention.
Treatment for both groups took place over approximately three weeks, although this varied depending on the needs of each participant. Treatment was delivered by occupational and physical therapists. The researchers also tracked engagement by rating the level of participation in therapy, in addition to tracking attainment of goals such as functioning and activities of daily living.
The technology intervention group was significantly more likely to attain their goals than the control group, with 54% vs 41% goal attainment, respectively. This was primarily due to greater engagement—the technology group was also significantly more engaged with treatment, and showed increasing levels of engagement over the course of treatment. Overall, residents who were more engaged were more likely to attain their goals. Analyses showed that the technology intervention was related to greater goal attainment, primarily through enhanced engagement.
While more research is needed to validate these findings, the results showed that the right technology can make therapy more engaging for dementia patients, which in turn improves goal attainment. The various symptoms of dementia, such as memory and executive functioning impairment, means low engagement in therapy can be a common issue for this population. Therapies that continue to improve on this aspect and incorporate the latest research will be vital in helping older adults living with dementia.
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Zarit SH, Chiusano C, Harrison AS, Sewell L, Krause C, and Liu Y. Rehabilitation of persons with dementia: using technology to improve participation. Aging & Mental Health (2020). Ahead of print.