Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia (AD)are incurable neurocognitive disorders which arecurrently affecting approximately50 million people worldwide, and the size of this population is projected to increase to 152 million by 2050. The use of technology in AD care is growing. Smartphones applications which are featured with touchscreen interfaces are suitable for people with AD due to their intuitive and simple control method. However, little is known about how smartphone technologies have been used to support self-care of AD patients.The major goal of the present study is to systematically review (1) current availability, (2) content and features, and (3) quality of apps designed for AD patients. This study will inform continued social work research and practice on technology-based dementia self-care.
A systematic approach was applied to review the smartphone apps for dementia care. Apps were identified by two researchers through Google search, Google Play, and Apple’s App Store. To qualify for inclusion in this study, an app needed to meet the following criteria: (a) available in English; (b) downloadable for current use; (c) have a primary function of assisting AD patients; (d) have a primary function of educating patients consistent with self-perceived needs of dementia care. Two investigators independently screened the apps and analyzed the characteristics, features, readability, and quality of the identified apps. A consensus of the decisions on apps was achieved through discuss.
Up to February 2019, 14 apps that met eligibility criteria were included in this analysis from 245initial search apps. Most of the applications were developed by private for-profit sectors(85.7%). Majority apps were developed in the U.K. (57.1%) and the U.S. (21.4%). Most apps are free (64.2%), recently updated in 2018 (50%), and support both IOS and Android platform (85.7%). The top three features highlighted in the reviewed apps are alert (64.3%), self-care tips (42.9%), and social network capacity (35.7%). There are four apps focusing on documentation of clinical information, three apps on medication management, and two apps on activity tracking. The qualities of these apps are widely ranged, from 2.9-4.84 on a 5 likert scale. The readability varied from 6thgrade to 16thgrade.
Conclusions and Implications:
Based on this study, we found that there are existing smartphone applications available to support AD patients’ self-care management. However, the functions of these applications are mainly focusing on general education tips, alert, and social networking capacity. AD patients with other needs, such as religious needs or tailored content and formats, face challenges finding their applications due to the limited choices. Additionally, with regard to content and its readability, access to high quality AD self-care via smartphone-based apps is limited due to the high literacy level of these apps. Also, our study demonstrated that the quality of current AD apps should improve in order to provide high quality AD self-care assistance.Social workers may integrate some high-quality applications in their practice, introduce these applications to their clients, and even provide feedback to app developers to better assistant this population.