It is hoped a new, ground-breaking study into television watching habits within aged care will improve the lives of residents living with dementia.
Around 20 seniors from four Villa Maria Catholic Homes (VMCH) aged care residences in Balwyn, Clayton, Sunshine North and Wantirna will be observed for six months by two students undertaking their Masters of Psychology (Educational and Developmental) at Australian Catholic University (ACU).
The project is part of a unique, ongoing partnership between not-for-profit organisation VMCH and ACU which includes an in-house research unit, based at VMCH, researching innovative ways to provide the highest quality of care to the people it supports.
VMCH & ACU Professor of Aged Care Colleen Doyle said the students would investigate the impact of television exposure – including its content and the length of time watched – on the observed behaviour of people living with dementia and their sleep quality.
“In developmental psychology researchers have studied exposure to violent television shows and video games and the impact on children’s behaviour. We want to see whether this applies to people with dementia who may not understand what’s on the television and may lead to them feeling more agitated.”
The project is being conducted in collaboration with St Catherine’s Aged Care Lifestyle Coordinator Sue Sammartino, whose observations of residents becoming upset or falling asleep while watching free-to-air TV led to the creation of the project.
“We notice agitation in people with dementia when news breaks are broadcast depicting natural disasters, wars, child abuse and animal suffering,” Sue said. “American style talk shows are confronting because of their tendency to raise their voices and talk over each other. This can seem like people arguing, and when a person has limited vision and hearing they can sometimes interpret this as an altercation in their environment from which they want to flee.”
Sue said she hoped the research would produce evidence about the impact of relaxing audio visual experiences for residents.
“Over the years I have worked with residents at VMCH to build up a library of DVDs relevant to their interests such as music concerts and musical movies. I have noticed that when given a choice, residents will choose their favourites and focus their attention on what is being played.”
ACU student Yael Marhaim said she and fellow student Melissa White had come across no other research of this kind and were excited to get underway.
“It’s an important topic and we hope the research will result in some positive changes to lifestyle programs and how aged care residences are run to maximise the quality of life for these residents.”
Yael and Melissa will undertake observations between January and June 2016 with results expected in October/November 2016.