Alzheimer's DementiaElderlyElectronic Media

COACHing people with dementia to better self care

Researchers from Canada and Scotland studied an automated system designed to assist people with dementia get through activities of daily living –- in this case hand washing -– and reduce caregiver burden.

First, the details.

  • 6 older adults with moderate-to-severe dementia participated.
  • Hand washing was the target activity of daily living.
  • They washed their hands once with the help of a caregiver and then alone.
  • Washing was divided into 5 steps.
  • The participants were monitored using real time video.
  • Data from the video were analyzed using a computer.
  • Missed washing steps triggered an audio and/or video prompt that guided the participant to correct the missed step.

And, the results.

  • Using COACH, participants were able to complete 11% more hand washing steps independently.
  • They required 60% fewer interactions with a human caregiver.
  • 4 participants achieved complete or very close to complete independence.
  • Interestingly, participants’ mini mental state exam (MMSE) scores did not appear to coincide with hand washing performance and/or responsiveness to COACH.
  • 78% of COACH’s actions were considered clinically accurate.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “The COACH system shows promise as a tool to help support older adults with moderate-levels of dementia and their caregivers.”

One small step for COACH, but a potentially giant step for future caregivers.

11/8/08 10:11 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.