I am humbly asking the Awesome Foundation to help fund my project “Wahiawa Savvy Seniors” by bringing iPad therapy to the patients at the Wahiawa General Hospital Senior Behavioral Health unit. These seniors have severe behavioral, emotional or mental conditions such as dementia, depression, and various personality disorders.
Since it is a psychiatric ward, it can be a very dreary place. Only their loved ones are permitted to visit the facility, and unlike senior centers or long term care facilities, our patients do not get to go outside, watch T.V. in their rooms, or enjoy outside visitors such as singing groups, church groups, or animals.
Since I have worked there, it has been my goal to get to know each delightful patient and figure out which things bring them a bit of happiness. To do this, I often use my iPad, and it has become indispensable to me in connecting with the patients on a personal level and showing them that they are valuable.
What I love about iPad “therapy” is its spontaneity. There are so many different types of Apps, I can find something to please everyone. For example, one day I heard a patient singing “Let me call you sweetheart.” In seconds, I had the lyrics and music on my iPad, and we did a little sing-a-long. For patients on isolation, I have used my iPad to watch old sitcoms with them, play games and listen to their favorite music. For a dementia patient who routinely stands up and serenades us with the Chinese national anthem (complete with hand gestures), I streamed Chinese songs through my music App. When one patient shared that her son was a pastor of a local church, I quickly found the church’s website and showed her pictures of her son and his family. She even had the option to stream and listen to the sermons.
I have also used my iPad for cognitive therapy by using Apps which prompt the patients to think by recognizing various objects and categories. I am also using my iPad to try different interventions with dementia patients to see if they actually can learn new information with repetition combined with images.
More cognizant patients can connect with the outside world by reading the newspaper and magazines. One patient loved to read the obituaries, but her poor eyesight made this an exhausting task so I found the Honolulu obituaries on my iPad in extra large font. For entertainment, the options are endless. Apps exist for painting, coloring, virtual cooking baking, games, and so on.
One patient was virtually unresponsive, lost in her world of advanced dementia, and I managed to get her eyes to focus on my iPad with a slideshow of kittens. For one brief second, she became lucid. Her eyes lit up, she smiled, and said, “Oh..look at them. They are so cute!” Moments like this are priceless, and for this reason I would love to be able to make iPads available for our unit. Thank you so much for your consideration.
Funded by Oahu, HI (March 2013)