Adapting mobile and wearable technology to provide support and monitoring in rehabilitation for dementia : feasibility case series

Thorpe, Julia and Forchhammer, Birgitte Hysse and Maier, Anja M (2019) Adapting mobile and wearable technology to provide support and monitoring in rehabilitation for dementia : feasibility case series. JMIR Formative Research, 3 (4). e12346. ISSN 2561-326X (

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Background: Mobile and wearable devices are increasingly being used to support our everyday lives and track our behavior. Since daily support and behavior tracking are two core components of cognitive rehabilitation, such personal devices could be employed in rehabilitation approaches aimed at improving independence and engagement among people with dementia. Objective: The aim of this work was to investigate the feasibility of using smartphones and smartwatches to augment rehabilitation by providing adaptable, personalized support and objective, continuous measures of mobility and activity behavior. Methods: A feasibility study comprising 6 in-depth case studies was carried out among people with early-stage dementia and their caregivers. Participants used a smartphone and smartwatch for 8 weeks for personalized support and followed goals for quality of life. Data were collected from device sensors and logs, mobile self-reports, assessments, weekly phone calls, and interviews. This data were analyzed to evaluate the utility of sensor data generated by devices used by people with dementia in an everyday life context; this was done to compare objective measures with subjective reports of mobility and activity and to examine technology acceptance focusing on usefulness and health efficacy. Results: Adequate sensor data was generated to reveal behavioral patterns, even for minimal device use. Objective mobility and activity measures reflecting fluctuations in participants’ self-reported behavior, especially when combined, may be advantageous in revealing gradual trends and could provide detailed insights regarding goal attainment ratings. Personalized support benefited all participants to varying degrees by addressing functional, memory, safety, and psychosocial needs. A total of 4 of 6 (67%) participants felt motivated to be active by tracking their step count. One participant described a highly positive impact on mobility, anxiety, mood, and caregiver burden, mainly as a result of navigation support and location-tracking tools. Conclusions: Smartphones and wearables could provide beneficial and pervasive support and monitoring for rehabilitation among people with dementia. These results substantiate the need for further investigation on a larger scale, especially considering the inevitable presence of mobile and wearable technology in our everyday lives for years to come.