Case Study: Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay and It’s Never 2 Late

Center Post

A new CAST Case Study describes a research study that CAST Patron Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay is conducting to assess the impact of computer technology use on people who are living with dementia. Researchers are using computers from CAST Supporter It's Never 2 Late (iN2L) to conduct the study.

The Effects of Computer Technology Use on Increasing Socialization and Improving Mental Health describes The Birdsong Initiative, a 24-week study to examine whether computer technology use can increase socialization and improve mental health among residents of nursing homes and memory support programs.

The study was made possible by a donation of $228,000 from Westminster-Canterbury Foundation Board Member Sue Birdsong and her husband George. Researchers at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Ghent, VA, are leading the study. 

The project is also supported by a partnership with the Therapeutic Recreation department at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, VA.

About the Birdsong Initiative

The Birdsong study began on June 30, 2015 with 53 Westminster-Canterbury residents who were selected because they are living with dementia or dementia-related disorders. The 53 participants were divided into 2 groups (high and low cognition) and then randomized into either a 31-member test group or a 22-member control group.

The test group received touch-screen computers from iN2L. The computers were placed in the rooms of test group members and are available for use around the clock. Residents can use 10 core software applications that are customized based on the individual’s interests. 

Each participant in the test group works individually for 5 hours a week with a therapeutic recreation intern from Virginia Wesleyan College. 

Control group members receive therapeutic recreation in a group setting, but do not have touch-screen computers available in their rooms and do not use the computer programs for 1-on-1 activities.

All study participants received a number of assessments at the beginning of the study, including:

  • Blood pressure readings.
  • Saliva tests to determine stress hormone levels.
  • Frequency and dosage of anti-psychotic medication use.
  • Frequency and intensity of behavioral episodes, as observed and documented by staff.
  • Cognitive function, as determined by scores on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment.
  • Mood, as determined by the Affect Balance Scale.
  • Depression, as determined by the Geriatric Depression Scale.
  • Stress level, as measured by the Perceived Stress Scale.

The assessments will be repeated at the middle and end of the study to measure the effects of the computer use. 

Preliminary Results 

“We are a little over halfway through the first 12 weeks of the study and so far we have seen an overwhelming response and acceptance of the computers,” writes Amy Powell, assistant to the president and director of continuum services at Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay, in the case study. 

In addition, residents are spending more time than expected using the iN2L computers on their own, she says.

Read the full case study to learn more about challenges that Westminster-Canterbury has encountered so far, lessons learned by the implementation team, and advice for others.