Can we measure how people with dementia use and potentially benefit from using digital technology to perform daily tasks?
Jared Benge, Ph.D.
University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX - United States
As the disease progresses, individuals living with Alzheimer’s or related dementias eventually need help with carrying out daily tasks. At first, the activities may include assistance shopping, balancing a checkbook and other independent living skills known as instrumental activities of daily living (iADLs). People with dementia may lose the ability to live on their own and need assistance with more basic tasks, such as eating, dressing and hygiene routines in the more advanced stages of disease.
Studies are exploring ways that technology can help individuals with early or moderate dementia perform iADLs. Such uses of technology include setting daily reminders on the phone, maintaining a calendar on the phone, online banking, communicating with family members and other basic tasks using technology. While these uses for technology are incredibly useful, they can be more difficult to use for some individuals, especially those with cognitive impairment. Dr. Jared Benge and team recently developed a new questionnaire to assess how well individuals with dementia who live independently can adapt to and apply the use of technologies to their daily lives The questions focus on such tasks as online shopping, remembering online passwords and reading online bank statements.
Dr. Benge and team will test and refine their questionnaire in 200 individuals with either mild to moderate dementia or mild cognitive impairment (MCI, a condition of subtle memory loss that may precede dementia). The team will also work to translate their questionnaire into Spanish to reach a more diverse group of individuals with their study.
Individuals will then undertake the new technology-related iADL questionnaire and the traditional (not including digital technology) questionnaire that studies iADL. Next, Dr. Benge and colleagues will use statistical methods to compare how accurately the questionnaires estimate iADL skills and identify cognitive decline. They will also determine how demographic factors (such as differences in language, culture and socioeconomic status) may impact what technologies people with dementia prefer to use. Lastly, the team will explore methods of combining traditional and tech-related assessments to create a more sensitive way of detecting iADL ability.
Results from this project could clarify how technology use can impact the daily lives of individuals with dementia and suggest opportunities to link technology in ways that improve quality of life and care. They could also offer a novel tool for assessing daily function in a world where technology is constantly changing.
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