Hospital hopes iPads with messages from family will help dementia patients

Vancouver General Hospital is testing out the use of iPads and pre-recorded videos of family members as a way to comfort dementia patients and gently remind them of where they are and why.

Trial only involves 2 patients, and so far, results are mixed

Vancouver General Hospital is using the trial to help find how tablets can best be used to help patients with dementia. (iStock)

Vancouver General Hospital is trying to do something about the disorientation and fear some dementia patients experience in hospitals.

VGH is testing out the use of iPads and pre-recorded videos of family members as a way to comfort those patients and gently remind them of where they are and why.

Clinical nurse specialist Lillian Hung says the hospital has been testing out the videos for several months as part of a year-long trial.

"If somebody's sick coming into hospital it can already be quite stressful. … and a person with dementia, they're having trouble coping with a change in environment. It can be very stressful," she told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

"If a nurse comes in and tries to take blood pressure, do something with the person, the person doesn't really, truly understand what's going on and it might trigger some fear or anger. The person might hit."

The videos family members record are about one minute long and are aimed directly at the person with dementia. They remind the person they are safe and that the medical professionals are there to help.

Staff might then try to reassure the patient, reminding them who is in the video, if necessary, to make an emotional connection.

"It's key, because people with dementia are much more sensitive to emotions," Hung said. "Their thinking process might be impaired because of the dementia. So, a person with dementia might be able to hear but they have no idea the nurse is just coming in the room to do a task."

So far, the VGH trial has only included two patients. While one patient responded positively, the other became emotionally distraught.

She says the reasons for the one patient becoming further distraught is not known, but it could be that they had depression and the video involved many family members.

Hung says the hope is this study will provide some further ideas for best practices using tablets in a hospital setting. VGH says it will present its findings in March.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast


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