Looking for newer iPad apps for Dementia
November 17, 2012 7:20 PM   Subscribe

My father is 91, speaks English and an avid TV-viewer. He had never been into word games or games like Sudoku or board games. He used to play golf till his early eighties. .From the mini- metal state test he has moderate dementia and we are hoping that together with the Aricept that he is on, some 'engaging' apps ( as someone put it ) might stave off deterioration of his cognitive functions.

I have come across some suggestions for apps here on Ask Metafilter , Dementia and the iPad and also in this forum, iPad for elderly/dementia . There are some wonderful suggestions but the posts are from 2010 and some of the links in the forum don't work anymore.

I have no doubt , the earlier suggested apps can stand the test of time in its usefulness but i am hoping Mefites can suggest some more and newer apps.

Thank you
posted by kryptos to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Lumosity is what folks are getting excited about these days.

Unfortunately, mental exercise has repeatedly been proven not to influence the course of Alzheimer disease.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 7:23 PM on November 17, 2012

A lifetime habit of writing (like a journal) has been shown to lead to reduced chances of developing alzheimer's. The theory seems to be, the more mental activity you do, the more plaques you can develop before showing signs of Alzheimer's.

Unfortunately, I have to agree with Protocols above, a lot of the brain games have been either shown to be ineffective or not tested yet. They feel more gimmicky to me, I can't help but feel like they prey on people hoping to see change like you.

Take your father to a neuropsychologist (not neurologist, different training). As somebody who has done NP testing in the past, but doesn't specialize in it, I'm hoping that the MMSE wasn't the only thing your doctor did to test for dementia. There are lots of good tests out there that would help you hone in on what kind of dementia might be going on and what you can expect in the future for his behavior and any changes, plus might be able to recommend some cognitive rehabilitation on top of the Aricept.

Sorry, no app recs. But if I were you, clearly motivated to help your dad, I'd get him in for neuropsychology testing and then go from there. Best of luck!
posted by gilsonal at 1:41 AM on November 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

There is no research that I know of that suggests that any kind of cognitive stimulation can stave off deterioration in dementia.

There is some evidence (or was when I was reading the literature a couple of years ago) that these kinds of games give you a brief boost in cognitive skills, and there's evidence that social interaction can do the same.

There is also evidence that you can maintain some skills longer than you might by drilling and practicing them several times a day (this was looking at retaining certain words in a specific type of dementia that affects language most) but that requires you to keep practicing, and you can only do that with a fairly small set of things.

In my experience, the best way to keep someone with dementia happy and functioning as much as possible is to have a very constant environment and routine and stick to that no matter what. When people with dementia come into hospital and come out of their familiar environment and routine, they have significant problems and and then often unable to get back to their previous function when they leave hospital. Dementia comes with a declining ability to learn new things and there is a constant forgetting of old skills. So if you plan to make any changes to your father's environment or routine it's best to introduce those as soon as possible.

Is your father already an iPad user? I've had a number of patients who have been bought iPads by family members (not all with dementia) and I've done a little bit of research into computer use by older people with brain damage. In my experience, unless the person is already comfortable with the technology and there is something specific that they want to do with it, they don't get used. The times I have seen them well used are when they're being used for things like looking at family photos (with or without recorded labels for the pictures) or when their use is supported by another person in the environment (setting up a game, turning it on, prompting the person with dementia to look at it etc).

Good luck!
posted by kadia_a at 2:16 AM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

My mother is in advanced stages of dementia. Be careful of the impulse to try to "fix" your father. As folks have said above, the medication can slow the progress, but the progress is inevitable. Now is not the time to learn new technology.

Mom was never a puzzle person either--I tried to get her to use some of those simple puzzle books--train your brain sort of thing and it just depressed her because she could see how much she was losing.

The key is keeping him engaged through modifying things he already enjoys--like watching golf on TV rather than playing.

My mom loved to read and keep up with local news--she was a teacher so very interested in education, the arts and our local wildlife. As the dementia progressed, she lost her ability to read, so we got her set up with audio books and a very simple CD player with just a big play button (that I made more noticeable by painting with green nail polish) and a stop button (painted red) and a volume control.

We had a caregiver in (the hours increased as her dementia progressed) and one of the things the caregiver did as she lost the ability to use the CD player, was to read out loud interesting stories in the newspaper.

The ability to appreciate music seems to stay the longest--Mom is 87 so I stocked up on lots of WWII era big band stuff and classical music which was her favorite. I DVR'ed operas because she will sit through an entire opera still.

Physical exercise is important to help with the balance issues he will experience. Get your Dr. to hook you up with a physical therapist to suggest a routine. Just walking is good.

If you haven't already, you should, while your dad is still able, get all the paperwork: will, health care/power of attorney, etc. taken care of--don't put it off. It is hard now, but will be a comfort to you later to know exactly what his wishes are.
posted by agatha_magatha at 4:40 PM on November 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you, all so far with the responses. No, kadia , my father has never used an iPad before but got quite excited at its camera function when seen it used with immediate viewing by his grandchildren. I have loaded the Ipad with his family pictures and pictures of his overseas holidays. i think the camera and its photos will make him happy and occupied. and it just dawned on me, there could a Golf app he might like. ( btw, he made his second hole-in-one at age 83 ). hope he game him much, though.

and gilsonal, he had a full workup investigation before ( but no, no NP referral ) and is now on regular followup with a geriatrician who is also monitoring his diabetes and HT.

i do hope others will have some interesting apps to suggest from their personal experience with their family member.

And Protocols, thanks for Luminosity.

Tnank you again,all.
posted by kryptos at 4:51 PM on November 18, 2012

Response by poster: and thank you too, agatha_magatha.
i see the point about not having apps and games that will frustrate him when he can' achieve its objectives. that would make him sad. and us sad too, watching him.

i have a physical therapist coming in 3x a week but it is hard sometimes to get him ready and motivate him, tracksuit and all to get him in the mood, as it were. Some rainy mornings, he would rather lie in bed. :-) but we do try to get his workouts in as part of his week's activity routine.

and all his affairs are in order.
posted by kryptos at 9:41 PM on November 18, 2012

Sounds like you are doing a good job of caring for your dad, Kryptos. We just moved my Mom into a care facility at the end of October--she is far enough along that having that level of care around the clock has become necessary.

They have a nice mix of activities to keep the residents engaged. Without it, my mom would probably stay in bed most of the time. That is one of the reasons we moved her--her daytime caregiver who was sweet and gentle with her was indulging her too much in allowing her to sleep much of the day and she was losing her mobility big time. I've noticed both physical and cognitive improvements at the "home"--it specializes in memory care.

Music definitely helped my mom get moving on those days she wasn't motivated.

I have been lucky in that my mom is not exhibiting any of the behavior problems that can happen--in fact, she's gotten sweeter. She is really living in the moment as that is all that is real to her these days. It has been an opportunity to improve our relationship--how can I be upset about past wrongs when she can't even remember them? So far she does remember me and my brother and his boys (she somehow forgets who my sister-in-law is...we try not to read too much into that).

Anyway, good luck with your dad.
posted by agatha_magatha at 10:16 PM on November 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

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