Adapting mobile and wearable technology to provide support and monitoring in rehabilitation for dementia: a feasibility study

Julia Rosemary Thorpe, Hysse Birgitte Forchhammer, Anja Maier*

*Corresponding author for this work

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BACKGROUND Mobile and wearable devices are increasingly being used to support our everyday lives and track our behaviour, which are two core components of cognitive rehabilitation. Personal devices could therefore be employed in rehabilitation approaches aimed at improving independence and engagement among people with dementia.
OBJECTIVE The aim of this work is to investigate the feasibility of using smartphones and smartwatches to augment rehabilitation by providing adaptable, personalised support and objective, continuous measures of mobility and activity behaviour.
METHODS A feasibility study comprising six in-depth case studies was carried out among people with early-stage dementia and their caregivers. Participants used a smartphone and smartwatch for 8 weeks for personalised support and followed goals for quality of life. Data was collected from device sensors and logs, mobile self-reports, assessments, weekly phone-calls and interviews. This was analysed to evaluate the utility of sensor data generated by devices used by people with dementia in an everyday life context, to compare objective measures with subjective reports of mobility and activity, and to examine technology acceptance focusing on usefulness and health efficacy.
RESULTS Adequate sensor data was generated to reveal behavioural patterns even for minimal device-use. Objective mobility and activity measures reflect fluctuations in participants’ self-reported behaviour, especially when combined, may be advantageous in revealing gradual trends, and provide detailed insights regarding goal attainment ratings. Personalised support benefitted all participants to varying degrees by addressing functional, memory, safety and psychosocial needs. Four of six participants felt motivation to be active by tracking their step count. One participant described highly positive impact on mobility, anxiety, mood and caregiver burden mainly as a result of navigation support and location tracking tools.
CONCLUSIONS Smartphones and wearables could provide beneficial and pervasive support and monitoring for rehabilitation among people with dementia. These results substantiate the need for further investigation on a larger scale, especially considering the inevitable presence of mobile/wearable technology in our everyday lives for years to come.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberel12346
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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