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An Assessment Tool to Identify Assistive Technologies to Support Community-Dwelling Older Adults with Dementia

Keywords: Community-dwelling older adults, dementia, assistive technology use, informal caregivers, clinicians.

Overview of Research

Cognitive and physical impairments usually result in a person with dementia requiring help from a caregiver to complete activities that are required in daily life. Much of this support is provided by informal caregivers, who are usually family members. Use of AT in community care has been shown to promote independence, safety, and autonomy of people with dementia, support the quality of life of affected seniors and their family caregivers, and postpone admittance to long-term care. However, it is still not clear exactly what types of AT are in use, how they are being used, or what the perceived gaps in support for use are. This information would be invaluable to clinicians, such as occupational therapists (OTs), who are central to the identification of the need and recommendation of appropriate ATs.

This research is aimed at developing semi-structured interviews that intended to collect information regarding AT use in the community to support older adults with dementia from the perspectives of occupational therapists, informal caregivers, and people with dementia themselves.

To date, two surveys have been developed and run through pilot trials: one for caregivers of older adults with dementia and one for occupational therapists.

While the results from this pilot must be interpreted cautiously, they have provided a tantalising example of the depth and breadth of data that can be captured through the interview guides and of some of the possible comparisons of stakeholders’ perspectives. Importantly, participants felt the questions were clear and that it was easy to share their thoughts. Moreover, the mixed-methods approach allows for the quantitative and qualitative analysis of data, allowing researchers to drill down and gain more clarification about results of interest.

Future work includes refinement of the interview guides, development of a guide for use with older adults with early to middle stage dementia, and the piloting of the surveys in different geographical areas. The broad administration of this approach of interviewing multiple stakeholders seems to be a promising approach to providing diverse and concrete evidence regarding AT use in the community that could significantly impact how assistive technologies for people with dementia are designed and prescribed, potentially ranging from end-user procurement to impact at a policy level, ideally resulting in more appropriate and useful interventions.

Research Team

Jennifer Boger, M.A.Sc., P.Eng. (University of Toronto)

Lynda Dunal, M.Sc., B.Sc.O.T.

Munirah Quraishi, M.Sc.(OT)

Naomi Turcotte, M.Sc.(OT)

Alex Mihailidis, Ph.D., P.Eng. (University of Toronto)