Socially Isolated Alzheimer’s Patients and Caregivers in Florida Given Tablets to Help Stay Connected

As the pandemic continues, we all find ourselves getting a little isolated and stir crazy. Two of the populations hardest hit by these feelings are those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. An initiative in Florida has been doing what it can to help.

This spring, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, and iN2L teamed up to give tablets to Floridians with dementia. Project VITAL, as it’s called, initially worked with 150 care communities and sent out two tablets per community. The goal was to help bring families together virtually and help seniors with social isolation.

PHOTO: FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF ELDER AFFAIRS

During the roll-out, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said, “Project VITAL utilizes methods of personalized communication tools such as video call connections, online support tools, and customized applications to allow residents to continue connecting with their loved ones during these tough times though various virtual platforms.”

The tablets’ features include puzzles, games, movies, audiobooks, music and, of course, communications tools. They’re also easy to use.

In December, the initiative is sending out 250 more of the devices to those who agree to take part in a study.

Participants need to be caring for a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia at home, use the tablet for at least an hour a day, and agree to participate in a year-long research project with online surveys and a monthly feedback and support group.

PHOTO: FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF ELDER AFFAIRS

The Alzheimer’s Association says this initiative is important because it can help stem isolation, frequent napping, anxiety, and restlessness in patients. It’s also very helpful for caregivers.

They wrote, “Social isolation and boredom are particular challenges for those living with Alzheimer’s and/or other dementias, as well as their caregivers. Having a way to provide purposeful and meaningful engagement by connecting with family, friends, healthcare providers, and other VITAL caregivers means that you never need to go it alone.”

The Florida Department of Elder Affairs has shared some program feedback from participants on their website. Several care homes talked about the importance of the devices to residents who wanted to reach out to family, residents who were surprised by phone calls from their kids, and activity directors who were having a hard time figuring out how to handle the pandemic.

PHOTO: FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF ELDER AFFAIRS

Grand Villa Del Ray West, which offers senior living, said, “DBW Memory Care LOVES this new device. We have been utilizing it since the webinar. The big hits for the residents have been the music, the trivia and the games. We have several residents playing the crossword puzzles and the Mah Jong. It has been so wonderful to introduce this new element into the community. It works so well because it is geared towards 3-5 people which is really perfect for this challenging time. It is also exceptionally user friendly.”

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Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Richard Prudom said they hope this initiative is helping residents build and maintain connections during such an isolating time.

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