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Caregivers Using Tablets

Analyzing two years of feedback from dementia caregivers

A University of Wisconsin-Madison study gives insights into how tablet computers can impact person-centered dementia care.

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Caregivers Using Tablets

Reflections on two years of feedback from caregivers of people living with dementia

A University of Wisconsin-Madison research report gives insights into how tablet computers can impact person-centered dementia care.

Connie, a personal caregiver from York, PA, was one of approximately 70 professionals that recieved equipment and training for using tablets to support person-centered dementia care.

A forward by Gerontologist Debby Dodds, MS  

I only briefly met Connie in person, but I feel like I know her well. Over the past 18 months, we’ve connected on the phone, through FaceTime video calls, and via online messaging. Connie is a personal caregiver - primarily for people that are living with dementia, and she has been participating in a new program involving training care teams to use iPads for person-centered engagement activities.  

“To be honest, when I first heard about the project, I was not exactly excited. I used a computer for a few years, but the tablet was new and that was one more thing to worry about,” Connie explained to me in a recent conversation.  

Before Connie received the tablet, it was configured to ensure privacy and personalized for her clients with music, images from family, and entertainment apps like YouTube. Once she started using the tablet and having success, her hesitations faded.  

“Now I use it all the time. I play music and videos every day. After a while, you notice what your client really likes, and when they like listening or watching. It really helps people feel happy and connected. It also makes it much easier to spark conversations."  

The following report provides an analysis of feedback from care professionals like Connie. Participants were part of care organizations from across the country that participated in dementia care projects, involving personalized technology for caregivers. The University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy analyzed the data from over 1,000 of the tablet engagement sessions and concluded that engaging people with music, images, videos, and apps supports person-centered care and can help caregivers enhance recipient mood.

Whitepaper Overview

Impact of iPad Utilization on Older Adult Moods and Caregiver Interactions

Download the Full Report

30 Care Organizations

Participating organizations included nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals and home care agencies. 

60 Tablets

Managed tablets were customized for music, reminiscing, and cognitive engagement activities.  

+1,000 Surveys

Care staff noted engagement activities and mood outcomes using a feedback survey on the tablet.  


What is the purpose of the report?

This report was developed to study the use of tablet computers as a non-drug alternative to mood management for dementia care.

Who are the authors of the report?

Dr. Jay Ford, Dr. Aaron Gilson, and Arveen Kaur from the University of Wisconsin Madison School of Pharmacy. For inquires about research, contact Dr. Ford at jhfordii@wisc.edu, and Dr. Gilson at aaron.gilson@wisc.edu.

How did they study the impact of tablet use?

A wide variety of care organizations, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and home care companies, recieved equipment and training for using tablets to personalize care. Participants were asked to provide feedback via a built-in app that captured their activity and mood outcomes for the care recipient.

What was the primary finding?

Rsearchers concluded that there are "unequivocal therapeutic benefits of iPad use for music and other approaches." The most prevalent mood outcomes included - maintaining a positive mood, enhancing a positive mood, or achieving a positive mood after beginning the sessions in a negative mood. These outcomes accounted for over 90% of sessions.  

“There is an unequivocal benefit in using iPads as an alternative to pharmaceutical interventions for mood enhancement in people living with dementia."

- Dr. Jay Ford, PhD. -

An Analysis of Technology-Enabled, Person-Centered Dementia Care Projects

Care professionals and dementia advocates from a wide variety of organizations contributed to the findings in this report, including non-profits, trade organizations, small businesses, and private foundations. The following projects were included in the tablet engagement report.

2017 Consumer Technology Association Grant A Consumer Technology Association grant was designed to learn how tablet technology can be leveraged to enhance quality of life for elderly and infirm in long-term care. The project included equipment and training for 10 care homes in the US.

2017 Verizon Wireless Grant A similar grant from Verizon's private foundation funded training and support for care staff to integrate iPads into the daily workings of skilled nursing facilities, assisted living communities, hospitals, hospices, and adult day sites. The grant included 8 care homes in the US and focused exclusively on residents living with dementia. 

2017 Music & Memory® Tablet Pilot Music & Memory is a non-profit that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm. In the Fall of 2017, ten Music & Memory certified care organizations participated in pilot project that included equipment, online training, live webinars, and support to help staff personalize resident engagement with tablets.  

2018 Visiting Angels Home Care Pilots Visiting Angels is a national, private duty home care agency. A franchise owner in York, PA invested in a tablet engagement pilot, which involved training care staff and personalizing tablet content for clients with dementia or a related diagnosis living at home.

“Our caregivers showed such creativity and compassion in using the tablets to make special connections."

- Susan Heinle RN. 

Owner of Visiting Angels in York, PA

Key findings show how tablets can be used to enhance mood.

This study is one of the first to focus on a large-scale implementation of iPads across institutional and in-home settings. Participating care organizations provided a common set of data for engagement sessions, including:  

  • Patients’ primary physical challenge – memory loss, non-ambulatory, movement disorder, communicative/expressive disorders, or other
  • Method used for caregiver/patient engagement – music, stories-video, games, communication, photos, other  
  • Type of strategy of caregiver/patient engagement – music, reminiscing, socialization, relaxation, achievement 
  • Patients' mood before / after engagement - joyful, happy, relaxed, indifferent, confused, sad, anxious, angry  


One of the most apparent findings from this study was the substantial benefit of the iPad interventions to most patients. The data suggests the personalized tablet engagement can help care recipients both maintain positive moods and improve negative moods.  

There were 628 sessions, in which the caregiver noted that the care recipient demonstrated a negative mood (angry, anxious, sad, confused, or indifferent) prior to the session. After partaking in personalized tablet activities, over 85% of sessions resulted in the care recipient shifting to a positive mood state (joyful, happy, or relaxed).

Mood Transitions for Individuals

Mood Before Session: Indiffernt (n=408)

For the many people that began in a state of indifference, engaging in tablet activities evoked a positive mood state over 90% of the time.


Mood Before Session: Confused (n=75)

For those that began Confused, a majority (86%) ended the session in a positive mood.


Mood Before Session: Sad (n=65)

Nearly 95% of people that began the session as Sad improved their mood to be joyful, happy, or relaxed.


Mood Before Session: Anxious (n=52)

Tablet engagement relived anxiety and resulted in a positive mood outcomes in over 80% of sessions, in which the care recipient began as Anxious.


Mood Before Session: Angry (n=33)

For those that began as Angry, all but two people demonstrated a positive mood after tablet engagement.

2019 Whitepaper

Impact of iPad Utilization on Older Adult Moods & Caregiver Interactions

This study was developed in partnership between researchers at the University of Wisconsin of Madison, and Generation Connect - a gerontology-driven technology company.

About the Team