Device Apps Aid Memory in Older Adults With Impaired Cognition

Digital voice recorder or smartphone apps can improve prospective memory function, QOL in older adults with mild cognitive disorders

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 24, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Older adults with cognitive disorders can learn to use digital voice recorder or smartphone memory aids to manage everyday prospective memory tasks, according to a study published online Nov. 17 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Michael K. Scullin, Ph.D., from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and colleagues investigated the feasibility and efficacy of smartphone-based strategies for prospective memory in persons with cognitive impairment. The analysis included 52 older adults meeting diagnostic criteria for mild cognitive impairment or mild dementia who were randomly assigned and trained to use either a digital voice recorder app or a smartphone reminder app to off-load prospective memory intentions.

The researchers found that the intervention was acceptable and feasible, with significant improvements seen in daily prospective memory functioning at four weeks on both standardized questionnaires and structured interviews. Using experimenter-assigned prospective memory tasks (51.7 ± 27.8 percent), performance levels favored the reminder app in Week 1, but favored the digital recorder app in Week 4. Greater usage of the digital recorder or reminder app was associated with better prospective memory performance and greater improvements in instrumental activities of daily living (completed by care partners), even when adjusting for condition, age, baseline cognitive functioning, and baseline smartphone experience.

“Though we predicted reminder apps to produce superior outcomes, digital voice recorder apps were similarly beneficial for this population,” the authors write.

Microsoft Research Inc. provided phones that were used for some participants.

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