LIAM BUTLER learns how iPads are transforming dementia care at Bupa’s Naomi Courts Specialised Dementia Care Home in Nelson.

When Naomi Courts’ diversional therapist Maaike Faber brought her smart phone to work, magic happened.

“I wanted to show my manager, Jackie Mackenzie-Howe, some of the applications I thought could help our residents with dementia to communicate,” said Faber.

Faber got permission from Mackenzie-Howe to show the applications to the residents, and it quickly became apparent they were onto a winner as residents delighted in playing with the phone. Faber’s next step was to bring her own iPad into work, so the residents could enjoy using some of the more powerful applications on a larger screen.

“We wanted to create a communication pathway that breaks through the generations,” Mackenzie-Howe explains. “Too often, we saw grandchildren and young teenagers visit their elderly relative and would hesitate on how to engage or communicate.”

The iPad enables the residents to communicate with their younger visitors as they tend virtual koi, paint with neon lights, and play math-based bingo.

“I am pretty proud of how the iPad is used,” says Faber. “In fact, I was blown away when one of our residents played maths bingo for the first time. It really opened up the lines of communication for them again.

“I call the iPad the diversional therapist’s instant multi-tool as it can engage the resident quickly when they are in the moment to reminisce. I can show them a street on Google map and they can tell me about who used to live on the street and what they were like. For the person with dementia, these moments of reflection may only last two to three minutes. The iPad can at these moments engage all the resident’s senses as it immediately accesses old newspapers, music and images. So you can capture the moment in time.”

Buoyed by such splendid demonstrations, Mackenzie-Howe presented to Grainne Moss, the Managing Director of Bupa Care Services New Zealand, a business proposal introducing touch screen technology into the rest home setting. Moss supported and rewarded Jackie’s determination by providing the financial backing required to install wi-fi throughout the dementia care facility and an iPad for the residents. A wonderful research project had begun.

The successes are becoming well documented according to Mackenzie-Howe. “One of our residents is a retired art teacher; using an actual paint brush was becoming difficult for her. The painting applications on the iPad allow her to enjoy sessions of painting again. We are exploring the technological applications for person centred care. We now need to measure the benefits of using iPads to see how residents interact with each other and what impact its use may have on other aspects of care such as aiding the reduction of antipsychotics medications.”

A further consideration at Naomi Courts is to use the iPad with communication tools like Skype and other applications to improve communication between families and staff. Often families are unable to attend meetings as they live in different parts of the country or the world. The use of Skype on the iPad will allow them to participate with the person they care for whilst they reside at Naomi Courts.

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