Tablet devices used to employ music or art therapies, can be a safe step towards managing agitation among patients with dementia, a new study led by an Indian-origin scientist has found.
"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," said 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 and also for app developers working to serve the technologic needs of this population,” said Vahia, who led the study.
The research is build upon studies which tell that art, music and similar therapies can help reduce symptoms of dementia without medication.
Tablet devices used for employing these therapies are however also beneficial because of its function of 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 said.
A menu of 70 apps was loaded to tablets as part of study. The apps varied on basis of cognitive complexity- from sizes varying from puppy size to Sudoku puzzles.
The researchers observed that the use of tablet was safe for patients of dementia, whatever be the severity of the disease and with proper guidance, the engagement rate with the devices was nearly 100 per cent.
And even patients with milder forms of dementia benefitted from the tablets, as syptoms of agitation were reduced, particularly not exclusively.
Vahia cited several examples of the tablet's potential to improve a patient's condition.
One particular patient, who only spoke Romanian, was very withdrawn and irritable, and medications were ineffective in controlling his symptoms.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," said Vahia.
"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," he said.
"These significant improvements are a clear testament of the tablet's potential as a clinical tool," he added.
The research was published in The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.