Using video calling programmes such as Skype or Facetime could help to keep nursing home residents with dementia calm, says an Australian psychiatrist
Thanks to modern technology, staying in touch with loved ones is the easiest it’s ever been, especially with video calling apps such as Skype and Facetime.
Now Dr Daniel O’Connor, an expert in old psychiatry from Victoria in Australia has said that using these types of communication could also be helpful for people with dementia, specifically nursing home residents who have become agitated or aggressive.
He believes that video chats are the most effective means of communication as they help family members stay in contact and provide sensory stimulation, meaningful occupation and company.
Dr O’Connor is interested in investigating non-pharmacological approaches to dealing with agitation, as opposed to using anti-psychotic medication.
‘In nursing homes, people are often isolated,’ he says. ‘They might have people around them but nothing much is happening that involves them and that addresses their personal needs, and interests and background and skills.’
Reduced brain impairment often means residents can’t always communicate what these interests or needs are, but this information is known by family members — or others who know the person well. That’s why it’s so important to forge good communication lines between the person with dementia, the care home and their family, and this is where video calls can help.
Talking on the telephone can become more difficult as dementia develops. The person may stop recognising the disembodied voice on the end of the line, and may simply hang up or walk off if they’re not interacting with a face or image. However, if they can see family members, they may be more likely to continue to talk.
Dr O’Connor studied the residents in five nursing homes in Melbourne over a 12-month period, comparing the impact of repeated 20-minute Skype video calls with standard audio-only phone calls. He discovered those who used Skype were less agitated (although further research is required to show the link is statistically significant).
‘It certainly looked promising,’ says Dr O’Connor. ‘Our findings suggest, but do not prove that visual and auditory sensory inputs capture attention and reduce agitated behaviours more effectively than auditory inputs alone.’
The study was published in International Psychogeriatrics journal.