How To Use Non-Medicated Therapies To Calm People Suffering From Dementia

August 28, 2017

The Michigan State fight song has become a symbol of hope at tech giant IBM, but not for reasons you might think.

IBM is the developer of SimpleC, a virtual caregiver application used for treating memory loss. Where does the fight song come in? You’d have to ask Jason, a SimpleC clinician who works with people who have dementia. We’ll highlight Jason’s experience later in this story.

Jason’s tale illustrates that we can sometimes treat the symptoms of dementia in ways that don’t involve drugs.

This is how Jason and his colleagues at IBM are using technology that’s available right now to deliver personalized therapy to people with dementia. And it seems like it might be working.

Technology can be Personal

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia cause memory loss that progresses over time, leaving a person disoriented, confused, and frustrated. That often leads to agitation and, in some cases, aggression.

One of the main tenants of dementia care is providing a safe, familiar environment that soothes and calms. People with dementia benefit from hearing voices they trust and seeing things they love. This helps them feel validated, which is a major goal of cognitive therapy.

SimpleC is a virtual, cloud-based application that helps deliver these familiar touch points of a person’s life. By providing personalized support and reassurance throughout the day, the technology keeps the user engaged and therefore calm.

How SimpleC Helps the User Throughout the Day

Imagine a tablet loaded with the SimpleC program. Caregivers and other family members work with staff at a senior living community and with health care professionals to load the program with personalized memories and helpful reminders. Together, they create a virtual caregiver that helps the user maintain independence and stay engaged.

They load family pictures and videos, plus other media that can help trigger memories of the user’s life. Staff loads helpful alerts, like medication times, reminders to hydrate, and times for upcoming events like meals, outings, and therapy appointments.

Health care professionals can participate too, by contributing medical data. In essence, they’re creating a virtual companion for the user, which can be incredibly comforting for many people with dementia.

Jason’s Story is Really the Story of Another Man’s Journey

Back to Jason, one of the IBM employees who works on the SimpleC team. His job is to take SimpleC out into the world and help real users understand the therapy. His experience with one man, in particular, illustrates the power of this non-medicated therapy to help calm someone who suffers from dementia.

When Jason first met the man, he saw before him an isolated person who had trouble talking. Occasionally, the man would utter broken phrases but not much else. The man sat alone and was not engaging with his surroundings.

Jason learned that the man had once played football for Michigan State, and used that information to build a visual story on SimpleC. He collected team photos and other memories, including a recording of the fight song used by that team.

This is how a therapy is built in SimpleC.

After using the SimpleC app, the man began to come out of his shell: speaking in sentences, engaging with his surroundings, and more. One day, when Jason arrived, he was met with a surprise nobody saw coming.

The man watched Jason walk into the room, looked into his eyes, and stood up. He opened his mouth… and sang the Michigan State fight song. For everyone there that day, for Jason, and for IBM, that song became a symbol of hope for people with dementia and for non-medicated therapies.

SimpleC is One Way We Help Residents at Legacy Senior Living

Legacy Senior Living is proud to partner with IBM by using the SimpleC therapy in our memory care communities. Collectively known as The Harbor, these communities are nationally recognized and acclaimed. To find out more about memory care at Legacy Senior Living, including SimpleC and The Purposeful Day program, please call or visit a Legacy Senior Living community near you.