There are thought to be around 700,000 people living with dementia in the UK, a figure which is expected to double by 2030. Until 2015 there had not been any projects led by Insane Logic’s speech and language therapists which explored the use of MyChoicePad to support the communication of people living with dementia. This project was therefore designed to explore the way the app can be used with this group.
Five questions were asked for the project:
- Can MyChoicePad be used successfully in supporting the communication needs of people living with dementia?
- Are there differences in the way people living with dementia use MyChoicePad compared to those with other communication needs?
- Are there differences in the way MyChoicePad is used when working with people at different stages of dementia?
- Does using MyChoicePad increase the time staff spend engaging with the people they care for?
- Does using MyChoicePad support a person centered approach?
How was the project carried out?
WCS Care identified twelve individuals with a range of communication needs and profiles, but split clearly between those living with dementia and those with other communication needs. Once selected, an observation of the environment and the individual’s communication needs was carried out by the project Speech and Language Therapist (SLT), based on the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists’ “Five Good Communication Standards” to guide goal setting.
Following this, members of the support staff attended two one-day training workshops, “Makaton for Parents and Carers” and “Using MyChoicePad”, during which they completed a questionnaire on the individual they support, describing their interests and communication difficulties, as well as they would like them to achieve during the project. This information, along with the SLT’s observation, was then used to set goals for the project.
After the training phase, staff and the individuals they support were designated an Android tablet with MyChoicePad installed, which they began using to support communication.
6 weeks later, a workshop was held for staff to share successes and challenges they’d experienced while using the app. 4 weeks on from this, staff answered a few questions to report on how MyChoicePad had been used and to evaluate progress. The project was then extended by a further 6 weeks as staff felt, given more time, the person they support would make further progress – this was particularly felt to be the case with the individuals with dementia. The questions were repeated at the end of the extension to measure the difference in progress.
- 89% of staff questioned felt they knew more Makaton signs by the end of the project than before it launched and felt more confident in using visual cues to support communication.
- 93% of staff felt that the individuals they supported had either met or partially met one or more of their goals.
- 78% of staff agreed that using MyChoicePad lengthened the amount of time spent communicating with the individual they support.
- 89% of staff felt that using MyChoicePad made communication more person centred.
- MyChoicePad was successfully used with people living with dementia to support word retrieval, conversations and to make simple choices.
- There was less focus on Makaton signing with the dementia client group and more on using photographs and sound recordings to allow for MyChoicePad to be a reminiscence tool.
- Staff supporting people with advanced dementia found it took longer to introduce MyChoicePad and would tend to use grids for reminiscence or simple choices, whereas staff supporting those with early stage dementia could use more concepts from a grid and make choices from a wider vocabulary.
- 78% of staff agreed or strongly agreed that using MyChoicePad lengthened the amount of time spent communicating with the individual they support and that it was more focussed and meaningful.
- 89% of staff felt the app made communication more person centred, regardless of the client group.