MindfulGarden: Interactive Digital Screen to Reduce Dementia-Related Responsive Symptoms

An older adult watches the MindfulGarden Platform

Award Date: 2018

Project Lead(s): Gloria Gutman

Project Title: A Pilot Clinical Trial of an Interactive Digital Technology in Treatment of Disruptive Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia in a Care Home Setting

What is the issue?

The behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia cause great distress and burden for individuals with dementia and their caregivers. Symptoms may include physically and verbally aggressive behaviours such as screaming and hitting. Residents may also exhibit non-aggressive behaviours such as restlessness and resistance to care routines. Non-drug interventions are the best first-line strategies to reduce responsive symptoms. There is a great need for solutions, yet only a few available are cost-effective for older adults living in long-term care facilities.

What did we do?

We introduced a screen-based digital device called MindfulGarden during morning, bedtime, and showering care for a small number of older adults with dementia. The device includes a minicomputer, a television screen on wheels, and a webcam and microphone. The display shows garden images of blossoming flowers and butterflies and uses a game engine to change the speed of the images in response to a viewer’s voice and movement. Our goal was to see if the calming motion pictures would reduce their responsive behaviours.

What did we find?

The technology decreased residents’ behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia and the time needed by staff to complete morning care. It also showed promise in calming residents before, during, and after showering. The soothing effect was stronger when we prompted study participants to look at the screen, suggesting that adding sound may help capture their attention better. The device did not work as well during evening care.