iPads have ‘substantial potential’ to improve quality of life for care home residents

Interest in the use of touchscreen technology to improve the quality of life for older people, and in particular those living with dementia, is growing.

But, according to researchers at the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester, until now there has been a dearth of systematic approaches to introducing and using touchscreen technology in care settings, as well as a lack of evidence based analysis of the benefits.

The researchers have been working with Anchor, England’s largest not-for-profit provider of housing and care for older people. In the largest systematic roll-out of iPads in care homes in England, Anchor has introduced tablets to 75% of its care homes (currently 63 homes across the country).

Researchers have used a range of methods to evaluate the approach and benefits of the roll-out. The findings reveal that if managed correctly, iPads have significant potential to enhance the quality of life of older people and particularly those living with dementia.

Dr Simon Evans, principal research fellow who led the research, said: “This is the first time we’ve seen iPads introduced within care settings in this kind of comprehensive, considered way and at this scale. Central to our findings is that just having the technology present isn’t enough. The key is how the iPads are introduced and used and the training and support provided to staff to make the most of their potential to enhance quality of life.

“If used in the right way iPads can make a big difference to people living with dementia. This represents an innovative and significant step in understanding the role technology plays in improving quality of life and wellbeing.

“Our report highlights best practice for introducing and using touchscreen technology in care settings in a way that can maximise the benefits.”

The evaluation identified some of the most useful apps for care staff to reassure, calm, interest and engage residents. Games like Pictionary and music apps can be used to bring groups together for fun or reminiscence.

Interestingly, in 98% of cases, iPads are being used to create new activities or develop existing ones – suggesting they are further enriching residents’ lives rather than simply digitising what homes were already providing. The iPads also allowed greater interaction between residents with 56% of staff able to involve ten or more residents in activities at one time. Interaction with relatives was also cited as a key benefit with 46% of staff involving family members through the use of iPads.

Joanne Laverty, a dementia specialist at Anchor said: “For us, it’s always about seeing the person before the dementia. That means everyone’s care is tailored to them, and activities and fun are central to that. As part of our Anchor Inspires model to deliver the best possible dementia care, we decided to introduce iPads across our care homes. Backed up with training and support for staff, it’s allowed us to explore an even greater range and breadth of ways for carers and families to connect with people living with dementia and ensure they get the most out of life.”

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