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Touchscreen Technology Enhances Quality of Life for People Living with Dementia

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Touchscreen Technology, such as the iPad, improves the quality of life for people with dementia, a new study has found.

Tablets, the latest in modern technology, can help people to recall experiences in their lives through music and pictures and can aid interactions between families, carers and those with dementia.

The study, carried out by researchers at the University of Worcester, found that by using the touchscreen devices on a daily basis, either one-to-one or in group sessions, carers could easily discuss life-histories and use the internet to bring back childhood memories.

Professor Dominic Upton, Associate Head of the Institute of Health and Society at the University of Worcester, said: “The use of touchscreens with people with dementia consistently showed positive responses through reminders of youth and childhood experiences. People really enjoyed the use of the technology and were engaged by how much it evoked early memories that had been forgotten.”

The study also found that the devices were useful on a practical basis, where those with dementia struggled to remember day-to-day things, such as whether they liked a particular food on a menu.

Professor Upton adds: “The touchscreen works as a great visual aid for carers to use when selecting food for the person living with dementia. Seeing an image of something rather than written words is better at helping to recall a memory.”

The group-sessions facilitated by Alive!, a registered charity and advocates of engaging older adults in interactive activity sessions, demonstrated how touchscreen technology could be used in group settings. At the residential and care homes where the study was undertaken, the touchscreen improved and increased communication and interactions between residents, staff and family.

“Staff helped residents to use the iPad to access YouTube and listen to music such as Frank Sinatra. The device acted as a fun link in communication between people and bridged the gap between the young and the old. It encouraged family and friends to engage with residents, and young children to interact with their elderly relatives.” said Professor Upton.

Professor Dawn Brooker is Director of the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester, a multi-professional group in the field of person-centred dementia care and support.

Professor Brooker concluded: “There is a clear indication from the study that the use of touchscreen technology may have a rehabilitative effect on people with dementia: it enhanced socialisation and had a positive emotional impact.”

“It is important that we make a substantial contribution to building practical ways of working with people living with dementia and their families to improve their quality of life and their well-being. I’m certain if the use of modern technology were implemented more widely in the care of people with dementia it would do a great deal to engage them socially as well as promoting independent decision making.”