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Why older adults should keep taking the tablets

12 July 2017

Using tablet technology can be beneficial to both dementia and mental health patients.

That is the finding being presented today to the annual conference of our Faculty of the Psychology of Older People in Durham today by Dr Leila Eccles from Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust.

Together with her fellow researcher Amy Nickson, Dr Eccles surveyed 63 older patients who were in hospital with dementia or mental health problems.

The patients took part in individual and group sessions, facilitated by healthcare staff. Among the websites accessed by the patients were Google Earth, YouTube, House of Memories and a fireworks app.

The mood of the patients participating in the study was measured before and after they had used the study. Both dementia and mental health patients showed a significant lift in mood, with dementia patients reporting a slightly larger improvement. Even the most reticent of patients improved in engagement from using tablet technology as a therapeutic tool.

Dr Eccles says:

“This is an encouraging finding.  In an acute, psychiatric setting we need immediate effects, rather than long-term effects to allow for a more rapid discharge, to sustain independence and recovery in the community.  The tablets gave us a mobile resource which allowed us to have a more opportunistic approach to therapeutic engagement, improving mood immediately after use and more often than a typical structured timetable of therapeutic activities”

Both staff and patients suggested activities on the tablet that might help to improve mood. People looked at places where they had previously lived or holidayed on Google Earth and listened to their favourite music on Youtube.

We also used sounds and images from House of Memories as a tool for having meaningful conversations with dementia patients, while patients who could not communicate or engage with higher-level activity used touch screen to create fireworks.”

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