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The use of Skype family conversations compared to regular telephone calls to reduce agitation in people with dementia

Prof Daniel O'Connor
Research Centre DCRC Assessment and Better Care
Partner Institution Aged Mental Health Research Unit, Monash University
Project Description

In a previous study, we found that taped family messages reduced nursing home residents’ agitated behaviours more effectively than non-personalized social interaction (Garland et al, 2007). In subsequent studies and systematic reviews, any sort of social interaction proved substantially more effective than ‘usual care’. Interaction that was tailored to residents’ backgrounds and former interests proved more effective still (O’Connor et al., 2009; van der Ploeg et al., 2013).

Family members sometimes make telephone calls to residents between visits and they might do so more often if their calls proved therapeutic. The beneficial effect might be enhanced further if people with dementia are presented with maximal sensory input by means of modern communication technology. To gauge the potential of these technologies, we conducted a pilot randomised cross-over, repeated measures study of internet video calls (Skype) versus standard telephone calls as a treatment of agitated behaviour in nursing home residents with dementia.

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.  For more details, please see final report below.

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