A personal assistant app that offers reminders about upcoming events and activities helped improve memory for older adults with dementia or mild cognitive impairment in a new study.
Older adults with dementia or mild cognitive impairment sometimes struggle to remember daily tasks, including managing medications, shopping for groceries, and tracking upcoming events, including birthdays, anniversaries, or doctor appointments.
For their new work, the researchers tracked how older adults with dementia or mild cognitive impairment performed with various memory tasks for four weeks. They instructed study participants to take photos at certain locations or to make phone calls on certain days.
As reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers trained the older adults on how to use a personal assistant application on their smartphones, similar to Siri, to provide reminders for these tasks, as well as other daily events or activities they may struggle to remember.
“We were successfully able to train the adults to use the technology, and also the adults that used the personal assistants the most had the best memory performance,” says Andrew Kiselica, an assistant professor in the University of Missouri School of Health Professions.
“Some people may have had doubts about if we could train these older adults with cognitive impairment to use the technology or if they would find it helpful, and the preliminary evidence suggests it helped them with their memory and improved their quality of life.”
Kiselica says the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in technology use among older adults, and he is interested in evaluating if memory can be improved by technology-based interventions.
“One interest area of my research is figuring out how do we best diagnose people with cognitive impairment conditions as early as possible,” Kiselica says. “Then, once they receive the diagnosis, how can we help them manage their condition so they can live their best life possible, and this is one solution that seemed to work well.”
Both of Kiselica’s grandfathers developed dementia, and while going through neuropsychology training in graduate school, he saw his mother’s father become unable to walk or speak due to severe dementia.
“I am passionate about helping others that might be going through similar difficulties,” Kiselica says. “If we can encourage the use of technology-based strategies in older adults with thinking issues, they may have better memory performance over the long term.”
Additional coauthors are from Baylor University, the University of Texas at Austin, Duke University Medical Center, and the University of Missouri. Microsoft and the National Institute on Aging funded the work.
Source: University of Missouri