Using telepresence for social connection: views of older people with dementia, families, and health professionals from a mixed methods pilot study
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Objectives: To explore the acceptability of telepresence robots in dementia care from the perspectives of people with dementia, family carers, and health professionals/trainees, and investigate the utility of a social presence assessment tool, the Modified-Temple Presence Inventory (Modified-TPI), for people with dementia. Method: A mixed-methods pilot study conducted in a social robotics laboratory. Three participant groups (n = 22) – dyads of people with dementia and their carers (n = 5 respectively), and health professionals/trainees (n = 12) – participated in individual one-off intervention sessions with the telepresence robot, Giraff, with follow-up interviews. Sessions covered how to use Giraff, followed by interactive practice in making a video-call involving conversation and manoeuvring of Giraff. Participants with dementia experienced receiving a call made by their carer; healthcare professionals/trainees experienced making and receiving a call. Outcomes of interest were sense of presence [Modified-TPI], affective response (International Positive and Negative Affect Schedule [I-PANAS-S]; Observable Displays of Affect Scale [ODAS]), and attitudes and reactions to Giraff (semi-structured interviews). Results: Participants reported a sense of authenticity and social connection through the experience. They indicated positive social presence through Giraff, and significantly higher positive (mean score 18.77; ±4.00) than negative affect (mean score 8.05; ±1.76) on the I-PANAS-SF, and on the facial display subscale of the ODAS (positive – mean score 15.50; ±3.51 versus negative – mean score 4.00; ±0.00). Conclusion: Telepresence has potential use in situations where people with dementia require social connection. Studies with larger sample sizes, varied characteristics, and cost-effectiveness analysis are needed to inform the application of telepresence in healthcare practice.
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