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IATSL develops assistive technology that is adaptive, flexible, and intelligent, enabling users to participate fully in their daily lives. Learn more about our research

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The Efficacy of Visual Prompting Among Older Adults with Dementia

Keywords: Prompting, older adults, dementia, ADL, visual cues

Overview of Research

People with dementia often have difficulty completing activities of daily living (ADL). Forgetting steps in tasks such as using the toilet can become aggravating and embarrassing. Caregivers often guide patients to complete the task by giving step-by-step prompts. The development of automated prompting systems may help to improve patient completion while simultaneously alleviating some of the strain experienced by caregivers.

We have had some early success in this area through clinical trials with the COACH system. The results of these single-subject studies show an increase in the average number of steps that the subjects were able to complete without assistance from a caregiver as well as a decrease in the overall number of interactions with a caregiver when the device was in use.

This new study will be conducted with several subjects diagnosed with moderate-to-severe dementia. The study will systematically record and compare the effectiveness of audio prompts given over speakers and audio-visual prompts given over a video screen during the activity of handwashing. The set-up can be seen in Figure 1. Findings from this study will help us to develop optimal cues for use by both caregivers and future automated intelligent computer ADL guidance systems.

Photo of visual prompt being given over a TV behind the sink area

Figure 1: An example of a visual prompt set up (with one-way mirror removed so the set-up can be seen clearly)

Funding Sources

University of Toronto Connaught Start-up

Research Team

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

Katrinka Lee Turgeon (Centre for Studies in Aging)