“Anar Dilara (MPH, MSc) is currently a graduate student at the University of Toronto. Her research interests pertain to the incorporation of technology in the everyday lives of older adults, with the specific aim of using technology to improve the self-management of health-related issues in older adults. At Ontario Shores, Anar is working on her thesis under the supervision of Dr. Arlene Astell, which aims to explore the feasibility of a virtual health management platform for older adults living with MCI. Anar has worked in collaboration with app developers to design the platform and has demonstrated the app to seniors and care providers to receive their feedback on design and usability issues. Prior coming to Ontario Shores, Anar has worked internationally with various research teams in the areas of health related care needs for seniors, hospital infection control, quality of traditional/herbal medicines and prognosis of post animal-bite patients.”
Digital self-management program for dementia: Scope for future research
Introduction: Touch screen tablet or smart phone based applications offer sophisticated solutions to some of the problems associated with ageing. Older adults living with dementia could use these programs to self-manage activities of their daily lives. However, such programs need to address usability issues of people with dementia. A mixed-methods study was conducted with older adults living with dementia and informal caregivers to gather information on barriers and challenges to using a self-management app on a touchscreen device.
Methods: Dyads comprising an older adult with dementia and a family caregiver were supplied a tablet and self-management app to use for 12 weeks. Training was provided at baseline and repeated at six weeks. Individual interviews at six and twelve weeks inquired about their experiences of using the app and their recommendation for changes.
Results: User feedback on challenges and suggestions on design, contents and functionalities of the app were collected through fourteen in-depth interviews and the responses were gathered under three major themes: (1) Relevance of the app to user’s personal situation, (2) usability of the app and (3) user’s skill and other conditions that affected their usage. Users who considered the app enjoyable or helpful for activities in daily living, spent more time trying the app. Several functions within the app were considered irrelevant to the user’s lifestyle or choices and some other functions were suggested to add. Some functions within the app require special skill so it was suggested to make these easier. The users’ level of expertise varied greatly within dyads or across dyads, with some users needing more training than others, including help to log in or to open desired pages.
Conclusion: Scope of future studies were identified as: (1) surveys on app choices of similar user population, (2) action research targeting all skill levels and need-based training to ensure usability of self-management apps, (3) controlled trial to see if similar apps offer any support with activities of daily living to its users and (4) reviews/meta-analysis to list contents offering benefits to app users. This study identifies a number of usability issues of a digital self-management app for older adults with dementia based on their physical and cognitive limitations. It is important to address these issues in future research to ensure the acceptability and feasibility of apps for this population.