Best Practice Guidance
Human Interaction with Technology in Dementia

target groups: Care organizations & professionals

Evaluating the effectiveness of specific contemporary technology

The rapid growth of the technological landscape and related new services have the potential to improve the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of health and social services and facilitate social participation and engagement in activities. But which technology is effective and how is this evaluated best? This section provides recommendations to evaluate the effectiveness of technology in daily life, meaningful activities and healthcare services as well as of technologies aimed to promote the Social Health of people with dementia. Examples of useful technologies in some of these areas are provided.
Technology for meaningful activities

Consider offering Exergaming as meaningful activity in day care centres for people with dementia

Guidance

Meaningful activities for people with dementia have proven value for their social health. Exergaming is an innovative way of exercising in a gaming environment. This movement activity may be experienced as meaningful by the persons with dementia, is considered fun to do and has benefits for them as well as for their relatives.

Explanation and example

Exergaming was compared to usual activities in a cluster Randomized Controlled Trial among day care centres for people with dementia. In this study exergaming consisted of interactive cycling using a stationary bicycle (i.e. home trainer) connected to a screen. The screen displays various routes which the participant can select and this mimics the experience of cycling outside, thus offering simultaneous physical and cognitive stimulation.

Positive effects in favour of exergaming were found on cognition and social functioning in people with dementia and on carers’ distress related to their relative’s neuropsychiatric symptoms and the carers’ sense of competence. Furthermore, persons with dementia, family carers and staff were satisfied with the exergaming intervention.

Exergaming can thus be considered a meaningful activity, and a good alternative when outdoor physical activities are not possible because of weather conditions or safety risks (fall incidents, wandering).

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Consider potential benefits in family carers when persons with dementia use technology

Guidance

When persons with dementia use technology for meaningful activities this may not only impact their own quality of life but also the well-being of their (primary) family carers.

Explanation and example

In the exergaming project, people with dementia were engaged in an exergaming activity or activities as usual in day care centres. We studied the effects on persons with dementia as well as on their family carers. In carers, positive effects were found in favour of the exergaming intervention, i.e. on the carers’ distress related to their relative’s neuropsychiatric symptoms and the carers’ sense of competence (after a three months intervention period).

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Consider cost-effectiveness research into eHealth interventions

Guidance

Methodological sound effectiveness research into eHealth interventions for community dwelling persons with dementia is growing. To determine the added value of such interventions, it is important to look at their effects and costs. This gives a balanced picture and helps policy makers to make the right decisions when deploying eHealth interventions.

Explanation and example

Positive effects were found of exergaming compared to usual activities in day care centres. The provision of exergaming brought additional costs related to the equipment (purchase and maintenance) and staff involvement. Compared to non-technology based interventions, especially equipment costs can be a cost driver.

In the exergaming study, the participating organisations received a list of potential funders for the equipment to be used, and various funding organisations (charitable organizations) were willing to pay for it. In some cases this helped to participate in the study.

Taking into account the intervention costs may help day care centres to balance the positive effects of using the eHealth interventions (for people with dementia and their carers) against the long-term costs (to be covered by own funding or external funding). This will promote a well-informed implementation and securing of the eHealth intervention.

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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.
Health care technologies

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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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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