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Can Computer Programs Help a Loved One with Dementia?

As technology continues to produce innovative applications to serve the needs of older citizens, families are turning more than ever to computer programs to help loved ones struggling with dementia.

Why is this? Research has shown that well designed computer-based applications are proving to be instrumental in helping individuals with dementia to retain a higher level of cognition and connect more effectively to the world around them. These applications can range from simple communications tools to video games to virtual reality programs. All can have a positive impact when used with professional supervision. Here are four key areas where computer programs are making a positive impact:

  1. Cognitive support: An article in Psychology Today, written by Dr. Peter Gray, cites studies that video-style games can yield a marked improvement in these areas: spatial attention, ability to track moving objects, reduced impulsiveness, improved ability to engage in multiple tasks simultaneously, improved attention span and improved working memory.
  2. Physical health improvement: Programs that encourage physical activity, such as virtual reality apps, have been shown to get senior adults moving more frequently. This helps improve circulation, flexibility, balance and muscle strength. 
  3. Engagement with others: When caregivers or family members share participation in computer activities, the process of interacting alongside each other increases personal engagement.
  4. Connection to family: Computer programs that allow family to connect with loved ones in memory care communities provides an unbroken link that keeps them in touch at all times. This helps reduce stress levels and increases the comfort level of residents.

To reach optimum levels of effectiveness, however, computer programs should be carefully evaluated in context with the individual’s cognitive level and unique needs. Using technology just “because it’s available” can actually have a negative impact, increasing anxiety and stress levels. Just the opposite of its purpose!  

At our Anthem Memory Care communities, we give each piece of technology a thorough vetting before placing anything in front of our residents. Here is what we look for and recommend you do as well:

  • Easy to use for both residents and caregivers.
  • Person-centered, encouraging engagement and personal interaction.
  • Reviewed and tested by physicians and experts in memory care.
  • Used in conjunction with a complete physical, emotional and cognitive care program.

When properly evaluated and used as part of a comprehensive quality care program, computer programs can have a dramatic impact on quality of life for those with dementia and for their caregivers.

If you have questions about technology and how it might help your loved one, feel free to contact us. Our team is up to date on all the latest computer programs for memory care and we are happy to help.