Best Practice Guidance
Human Interaction with Technology in Dementia

Recommendations

Implementation of technology in dementia care: facilitators & barriers

Successful implementation of technology in dementia care depends not merely on its effectiveness but also on other facilitating or impeding factors related to e.g. the personal living environment (privacy, autonomy and obtrusiveness); the outside world (stigma and human contact); design (personalisability, affordability and safety), and ethics on these subjects.  This section provides recommendations on the implementation of technology in everyday life, for meaningful activities, healthcare technology and technology promoting Social Health.

Technology in everyday life

Involve diverse groups of stakeholders and consider existing contexts when designing, developing and using Everyday Technologies

Guidance

Technology companies and developers should involve more diverse groups of people living with dementia or caring for people with dementia, in all stages of design, development and implementation of technologies. They should also consider existing contexts before introducing them.

Explanation and Examples

Consultations explored the ways in which Everyday Technology can be both an enabler and disabler, among people living with dementia, or providing care for people with dementia, from minority and migrant communities within the EU (Germany and Greece). The consultations highlighted the need for more contextually-relevant Everyday Technologies. This includes consideration of existing contexts before introducing technologies or technology interventions e.g. eHealth, finance or social apps. Consultees reported the need to identify existing levels of access and ability to use Everyday Technologies (e.g. possession of technological devices and digital literacy etc.) as well as access to infrastructures to support their use (e.g. internet connection, battery charging facilities and face-to-face support). Everyday Technology use is influenced by contextual and cultural factors. Technology companies and developers need to involve a more diverse group of people living with dementia or caring for people with dementia (e.g. from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, urban and rural environments etc.) throughout all stages of technology development.

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Consider involving occupational therapists to enable people with dementia to use everyday technology

Guidance

Consider involving occupational therapists in providing interventions that enable people with dementia to use the everyday information and communication technologies they have.

Explanation and Examples

A standardized questionnaire mapped how many Everyday Information & Communication Technologies (EICT) (maximum 31) were relevant to 35 people living with dementia and 34 people with no known cognitive impairment in Sweden. A relevant EICT is one that is being used, or has been used in the past, or is planned for use in future. The median amount of relevant EICTs was shown to be 11 in the group without dementia, and 7 (significantly less) in the group with dementia. Each person also rated their ability to use (maximum 90) relevant Everyday Technologies (ETs) on a 5 step rating scale. This data was analysed (in a Rasch model) to produce a score for each person’s ability to use ET. When we compared ability to use ET with amount of relevant ETs in each group, the more EICTs a person counts as relevant, the higher was their ability to use ET. This pattern was only found in the group of people with dementia, and not the group without. The amount of relevant EICTs is affected by a person’s ability to use them. So some people may need support to identify the usefulness and possibility to use an EICT function that they have access to.

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Provide non-ICT (Information Communication Technology) options for people with dementia who need it

Guidance

To avoid excluding some people with dementia, service developers should provide alternative non-ICT options when they deliver services and interventions that rely on smartphones, tablets and computers.

Explanation and Examples

A standardized questionnaire mapped how many Everyday Information & Communication Technologies (EICTs) (maximum 31) were relevant to 35 people living with dementia and 34 people with no known cognitive impairment in Sweden. In the same questionnaire, each person also rated their perceived their ability to use (maximum 90) relevant ETs on a 5 step rating scale. A relevant EICT is one that is being used, or has been used in the past, or is planned for use in future. This data was analysed (in a Rasch model) to produce a score for each person’s ability to use ET, and a challenge measure for each of the 31 EICTs to show how difficult or easy they were to use compared to each other. EICTs on smartphones and tablets were not relevant for a high proportion of both groups. Combined with a lower ability to use ET, particularly for people in the group with dementia, and high challenge measures for computer and automated telephone service functions, this could mean some people cannot access EICT-based services and interventions on computerized devices. However, the landline telephone was easiest to use and relevant to the majority of both groups, so this, together with face-to-face options could provide viable alternatives.

The study is currently under review and will be available under open access.

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Technology for meaningful activities

Ensure multiple employees are responsible for exergaming to ensure successful implementation of this technology

Guidance

Exergaming in day care centres can be implemented more successfully by making more than one employee responsible for it.

Explanation and examples

We have asked day-care centres for people living with dementia, which factors were important for successful implementation of Exergaming. Sometimes, only one person in the day-care centre was responsible for the Exergaming activity. If this person was not at the day-care centre, because he/she was ill or left for another job, the Exergaming activity often was forgotten.

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Ensure the support from the management of care organisations to promote successful implementation of exergaming

Guidance

Employees of care organisations should be supported by the management in their responsibility for Exergaming as a new activity. Managers should be actively engaged in Exergaming and be kept updated on any developments with regard to Exergaming (i.e. positive experiences of people with dementia practising Exergaming, any potential issues with the activity).

Explanation and examples

We have asked day-care centres for people living with dementia, which factors played a role in successful implementation of Exergaming. The staff of these day-care centres sometimes did not feel supported by the management in supervising and implementing the Exergaming activity. This made it less likely for them to implement it.

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Ensure free access to the internet for all residents in care homes

Guidance

Internet should be freely available in care homes so residents with and without dementia can have access to online resources (e.g.social media, entertainment, information).

Evidence

The multi-country survey indicates that it is not common for the residents to have access to the internet in care homes, with the internet use restricted to the staff. This means that many social and leisure activities based on ICT will be inaccessible for people with dementia, depriving them of enjoyable, meaningful activities and social networks.

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Explore and consult with the eHealth context to facilitate implementation of eHealth interventions

Guidance

To develop an eHealth intervention for caregivers of people with dementia that will be used in practice, developers should investigate the needs of the target population (people with dementia and their caregivers), and the needs of the people who will be implementing these interventions after a trial phase (such as case managers, hospital workers, volunteers or professionals associated with advocacy groups).

Explanation and examples

A systematic search was conducted into the implementation of studies including the terms ‘dementia’, ‘eHealth’, and ‘caregivers’. 2524 abstracts and 122 full texts were read, resulting in 46 studies meeting all criteria. Containing 204 statements on implementation. Most implementation statements could be grouped into 2 main themes: ‘Determinants associated with the eHealth intervention’ and ‘Determinants associated with the caregiver’. Very few statements were in the themes ‘Determinants associated with the implementing organization’ and ‘Determinants associated with the wider context’. Absence of knowledge on the contextual environment creates significant difficulties for health system planners and implementers who aim to translate these interventions into practice.

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Start making eHealth financing and business plans at the start of the development phase

Guidance

To ensure that the eHealth interventions for caregivers of people with dementia will continue to be available, supported, updated and compatible with changing software and hardware requirements, financing and business plans should be developed from the beginning.

Explanation and examples

A mixed-methods study followed up on the 12 publications included in Boots et al.’s (2014) widely cited systematic review on eHealth interventions for informal caregivers of people with dementia, to explore implementation into practice. Publicly available online information, implementation readiness (ImpRess checklist scores), and survey responses were assessed. The majority of survey respondents identified commercialization and having a business plan as facilitators to implementation. There was little evidence for any of the 12 applications being put into practice.

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Implementation of technology in dementia care: facilitators & barriers

Guidance

Ensure new technology is compatible with a range of relevant platforms to promote implementation.

Explanation and examples

Findings from the feasibility trial showed that people with dementia use a range of devices with various software versions (e.g. smartphones, touch-screen tablets, and personal computers) to access apps and other services. New technology which aims to be compatible with these different devices, can lead to increased uptake and may contribute to successful implementation.

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Health care technologies

Increase family carers’ awareness about the use and benefits of online interventions

Guidance

People involved in the provision of support to family carers, such as health professionals, patient organizations, should inform them about the potential benefits derived from the use of online interventions and actively promote their use.

Explanation and example

Despite the potential benefits of Internet carer support and training programmes, family carers are not always informed about the existence and use of online alternatives to traditional face-to-face support programmes. Extra attention should be paid to inform and motivate family carers to start and continue using Internet training programmes, especially in countries where the use of the Internet for health related purposes is not common yet. India trial (Mehta et al. 2018) Rrecruitment and adherence for a randomized controlled trial of an online support programme in India (Mehta et al. 2018) turned out to be challenging as most of the family carers were not accustomed to access to the Internet for health-related reasons.

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Involve all users during the development process of complex health technologies

Guidance

To make complex health technologies more useful and applicable for users, it is crucial to involve all users, including staff, in the early phase of development of these interventions.

Explanation

In developing complex health technologies that would be delivered by nursing staff to people with dementia, it is important to involve the nursing staff themselves in the early phase of development of such technologies. In doing so, complex health technologies can be more useful and applicable for the nursing staff.

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Make complex health technologies flexible for tailoring to local contexts

Guidance

To better implement complex health technologies in complex settings such as nursing homes, it is important to make these health technologies flexible to existing situations and processes including: the specific context of the nursing homes; the needs and roles of nursing staff; and the timing and order of implementation of different intervention components (e.g. training on specific subjects).

Explanation

Nursing homes may have their own culture and own ways of working. Hence, complex health technologies should be able to fit in this context. The nursing staff may also have varying levels of knowledge and skills and complex health technologies should be flexible for tailoring so that it can be used based on the capabilities of all nursing staff. The timing and order of implementing components of the complex health technologies may not be applicable in all situations, so interventions should be flexible for nursing staff to decide when to implement certain complex health technology components.

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Ensure management engagement when implementing complex health technologies

Guidance

Consider active engagement of nursing home management as a crucial component when designing complex health care technologies for nursing homes. Their commitment to the project’s success will help to ensure staff have sufficient time and other resources to participate in the new programme.

Explanation

A lack of time is one of the most important barriers for implementing advance care planning (ACP) in nursing homes. Therefore, it is crucial staff gets enough time to engage and work with the intervention in order to properly implement it. When staff is given time to spend on intervention-related tasks, instead of having to spend this time on other tasks, this will increase their ownership of the intervention.

Example

In the ACP+ programme all nursing home managers signed a contract stating they would allow their staff to spend time on the intervention. Training sessions were held during working hours and staff got paid while attending these sessions.

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Target multiple levels when implementing complex health technology in a specific context

Guidance

When implementing Advance care planning (ACP) as a complex health technology in a complex setting such as a nursing home, multiple levels should be targeted, including management, nurses, care staff, volunteers, visiting or residing physicians, families, cleaning or other staff.

Explanation

The implementation process will have a higher chance of succeeding when multiple levels are targeted within the nursing home. Colleagues in the nursing home can help each other to implement the intervention, creating a positive and open environment to learn and develop new skills and deliver the best care possible. In this way the intervention can produce a shift in working culture and attitudes and deliver sustainable change.

Example

The ACP+ intervention targeted not only the (head) nurses, but also other care staff and cleaning, kitchen and maintenance staff. Also, engagement of the management was required for participation in the trial. A few highly motivated people were extensively trained in conducting ACP conversations and this knowledge was past onwards to colleagues via internal training sessions. In this way the whole nursing home was involved in the intervention, leading to greater participation of all nursing home employees.

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Accessibility to technology should be ensured for all people with dementia

Guidance

Cognitive rehabilitation technology should be accessible physically and in terms of cost, taking into account the mobility problems and the low income of many older people with dementia. To increase the accessibility of technology it is necessary to deliver it at low cost or promote the financing of licenses for people with dementia.

Explanation

Programs for cognitive rehabilitation for people with dementia may be inaccessible due to high costs or difficulty getting access to the location that provides the program because of mobility issues. Technology associated with cognitive rehabilitation or stimulation should be accessible to all those who could benefit from it. Technologies for cognitive rehabilitation should be accessible at home, especially in people living in rural areas or with mobility problems who are not able to travel to a center to perform cognitive rehabilitation.

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Take into account the level of cognitive impairment when implementing technologies

Guidance

The level of cognitive impairment must be taken into account in the design of technology because people with severe dementia have different needs vs. mild dementia.

Explanation and Example

People with severe cognitive impairment will have more problems learning to use different and new devices. They need more explanation and a longer learning time, due to limited cognitive capacities. For example, the clinical experience with Gradior shows that people with moderate and severe dementia should have the therapist as a permanent guide. According to this, Gradior possibly would have to adopt new systems and tools to become effective in people with moderate and severe dementia, and in turn, allow a level of autonomy of the person with dementia who uses this technology. Indeed, the help of a therapist in the first steps of applying a technological-based therapy is strategic for implementing and accepting the approach.

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Nursing home managers should ensure the appropriate conditions for implementation of EPR systems

Guidance

Issues such as access to the EPR system, appropriate training and system development and support should all be considered by nursing homes before and during the implementation of EPR systems.

Explanation and Examples

Access or non-access to various parts of the EPR system should be discussed and put in place. For instance, management should consider whether auxiliary staff should be allowed to access medical information, such as dementia diagnosis, and whether this would consequently entail training in the field of dementia. Appropriate training in the EPR system according to individual staff needs is also required, as some staff may be more experienced in the use of technology than others. Training ‘on the job’ was found to be preferred by many over classroom-based teaching. Finally, software developers should consider working alongside nursing homes during the design of EPR systems in order to ensure software is appropriate for their needs. Developers should continue to be involved in improving the EPR following implementation, as part of an iterative cycle.

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Ensure the involvement of a dedicated trainer throughout the entire implementation of a complex health technology in nursing/care homes or other institutional settings

Guidance

To improve the implementation of complex health technologies focused on training healthcare professionals in institutional settings, it is important to ensure the involvement of a dedicated trainer throughout the entire implementation process.

Explanation and Examples

For complex health technologies focused on training healthcare professionals, trainers play a crucial role. Trainers should be able to spend dedicated time to deliver the trainings in a specific facility or institution (e.g. nursing home). Hence, they should preferably be paid by a third party or, if paid by the institution, mechanisms should be in place to ensure trainers have dedicated time and training can be delivered.

Ensuring the continuous and long-term involvement of such trainers (e.g. via regional collaborations) could facilitate better implementation of complex health technologies, as timing of the trainings can then be tailored to the needs in a specific context and to the learning needs of the professionals in this context.

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Ensure a clear distinction of roles and responsibilities for staff when implementing complex health technologies in institutional settings

Guidance

To improve the implementation of complex health technologies in institutional settings, it is important to ensure a clear distinction of roles and responsibilities for staff throughout the entire implementation process.

Explanation and Examples

To facilitate the implementation of complex health technologies in a, often complex, health care setting, a clear distinction of roles and responsibilities for staff is crucial. This clear distinction helps:

  1. the staff to know what is expected of them,
  2. co-workers to know what they can ask and expect of the staff involved in the implementation and
  3. management to determine how much time would be needed for the staff to implement the technology in an appropriate manner.
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Telehealth should be recognised as a valuable adjunct to traditional occupational therapy service provision, requiring dedicated financial, legislative and informative resources

Guidance

Occupational therapists must adopt telehealth practices as a supplement to in-person occupational therapy to avoid service disruption in times of crisis. This requires legislation and public promotion, clear strategies and guidelines for health service managers, and finally, training and continuous support for end-users.

Explanation and Examples

A global online needs-assessment survey among occupational therapists was undertaken to determine the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on telehealth practices in occupational therapy worldwide and to get insight into facilitators and barriers in utilising this form of service delivery. The survey was circulated in the occupational therapy community by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) between April and July 2020, collecting responses to closed-ended questions, in addition to free-text comments. 2750 individual responses from 100 countries were received. The results revealed a significant increase in the use of telehealth strategies during COVID-19, with many reported benefits. Occupational therapists who used telehealth were more likely to score higher feelings of safety and positive work morale and perceived their employer’s expectations to be reasonable. Restricted access to technology, limitations of remote practice, funding issues and slow pace of change were identified as barriers for some respondents to utilising telehealth. Facilitators included availability of supportive policy, guidelines and strategies, in addition to education and training.

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Social Health Domain 3: Technology to promote social participation

Make sure social robots work well with residents and consider practical challenges when implementing social robots in nursing homes

Guidance

Understanding how social robots positively impact nursing home residents as well as analysing practical challenges are important when implementing robotic assistive technology in nursing homes

Explanation and examples

An important facilitating factor to the acceptance of social robots in nursing homes is understanding and seeing how social robots positively impact residents, for example by improving the communication, decreasing loneliness, providing joy to residents, calming agitated residents or generally increasing their wellbeing. Understanding these benefits will facilitate the acceptance of social robots by staff as well as by relatives, but is also important for the resident to accept the social robot, as their acceptance will be influenced by the views and attitudes of staff and relatives.

On the other hand, one of the key hindering factors to the acceptance of social robots in nursing homes are practicalities of everyday life in the nursing home, such as storage, hygiene, finding a quiet place, scheduling time for robot use or the need to charge the robot.

We conclude, that applying an acceptance model of social robots (here the Almere Model) is an interesting and feasible way to trace facilitators and barriers of implementation of social technology in nursing homes, where involvement in social activities and enhancing positive experiences are important foci of interventions to improve social health.

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Consider different contextual factors to implement social robots in dementia care

Guidance

Technology developers and researchers should be aware of the different contextual factors that can affect the translation of research on social robots to real-world use.

Explanation and examples

Barriers and facilitators affecting the implementation of social robots can occur at different levels. For example, they relate to the social robots’ features, or relate to organisational factors or external policies. A scoping review was conducted to understand the barriers and facilitators to the implementation of social robots for older adults and people living with dementia. 53 studies were included in this review. Most existing studies have disproportionately focused on understanding barriers and facilitators relating to the social robots, such as their ease of use. However, there is significantly less research that has been conducted to understand organisational factors or wider contextual factors that can affect their implementation in real-world practice. Future research should pay more attention to investigating the contextual factors, using an implementation framework, to identify barriers and facilitators on different levels to guide the further implementation of social robots.

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Loneliness should be included in future technology intervention studies as an outcome in order to study the effect of active assisted living (AAL) technologies on loneliness of people with dementia in long-term care

Guidance

Implementing assistive technology could be promising in long-term care to address loneliness in dementia, but further studies are needed to tailor assistive technology to people living with dementia in different care settings and to investigate its effect on loneliness.

Explanation and examples

Active & Assisted Living (AAL) technology aims to support coping with the consequences of dementia. A scoping review was conducted to learn if and how AAL addresses loneliness in people living with dementia in long-term care. Although, only one study focused directly on the impact of AAL technology on loneliness, findings suggest that AAL were used in the context of psychosocial interventions and proved to have had an impact on loneliness in people living with dementia. It remains unclear why loneliness was almost never included as an outcome in technology studies. Since we were not able to derive clear effects of assistive technology on loneliness from the included studies, we recommend using loneliness outcome measures in future intervention studies into AAL technology.

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