It is estimated that 50 million people across the globe are living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, including about 6 million people in the United States. Alarmingly, deaths related to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia spiked by 16 percent during the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing the urgency to find effective treatment options.
Researchers recently completed a study that found that Constant Therapy is a manageable and effective intervention for people living with dementia. This post summarizes the key findings of the study, Clinical Study of the Effectiveness of Constant Therapy in the Treatment of Clients With Dementia: Implications for Telepractice, conducted by researchers Debra L. Edgar and Peggy L. Bargmann of the University of Central Florida’s Communication Sciences and Disorders Clinic at Brain Fitness Academy (BFA), and published in Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups.
Dementia study aims
This two-patient case study sought to determine the efficacy of Constant Therapy as an intervention for persons with dementia. Edgar and Bargmann retrospectively analyzed the progress of two patients who had been previously diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, respectively. Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia together constitute at least 75 percent of all dementia cases, and they can affect decision making, memory and word retrieval. Both participants had consistently used Constant Therapy over the preceding year.
Constant Therapy’s app was selected for the study for two reasons: It had been used at BFA for over 7 years, and it is the only app of its kind to have received breakthrough device designation by the FDA.
What researchers wanted to know:
- Does a particular diagnosis of dementia affect the selection, accuracy, and improvement of exercises in Constant Therapy?
- Does more frequent use of Constant Therapy translate to greater accuracy gains?
- Do patients finish more Constant Therapy exercises at home or in the clinic?
- Is Constant Therapy a logistically manageable treatment option for people with dementia?
The answer to all of the above questions was an emphatic yes. We’ve summarized the key findings below.
Major takeaways about dementia and Constant Therapy
- Both participants demonstrated strong improvement overall. They also both exhibited carry-over with skills used in reading, spelling and listening comprehension. As a result, both participants experienced better self-confidence and a sense of improvement. These benefits might help forestall the depression and anxiety that can accompany the experience of living with dementia.
- Patients can complete vastly more Constant Therapy exercises through consistent at-home use than in the clinic alone. Both study participants completed about seven times more exercises at home than in the clinic. This is particularly notable given the accelerated transition to telepractice observed during COVID-19. Constant Therapy’s two-pronged approach via separate patient and clinician apps allows clinicians to virtually monitor their clients’ progress and adjust homework accordingly.
- Improvement, not just maintenance, is possible. Edgar and Bargmann found that the frequency of Constant Therapy use correlated with the mastery of assigned exercises. This finding is significant because it shows that Constant Therapy can be used not just to prevent further decline of cognitive and language skills, but also to improve existing ones.
- Individualized treatment plans should be assigned to optimize improvement via Constant Therapy. The two study participants demonstrated varying results due to their different underlying diagnoses (Alzheimer’s disease compared to vascular dementia). Their performance on particular cognitive or speech and language exercises varied, and their assigned programs in Constant Therapy were adjusted accordingly. Clinicians should be mindful to tailor assigned exercises in Constant Therapy to a particular diagnosis of dementia and patients’ individual strengths and weaknesses.
- Constant Therapy is a feasible treatment option for people with dementia and their caregivers. All that patients need to get started are a tablet, an active internet connection, and basic instructions in the app.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented both a challenge and an opportunity for patient access to speech-language pathology services. The rapid shift from in-person to telepractice presented technical challenges, but it also expanded the potential for a hybrid model of speech therapy. Under that model, asynchronous homework on apps like Constant Therapy complements synchronous work with a speech-language pathologist. Moreover, Constant Therapy allows patients who are homebound or live in areas without many speech-language pathologists to continue improving.
As this study showed, Constant Therapy can help people living with dementia to achieve significant gains in their cognitive and language abilities through a clinician-monitored program tailored to their needs. The app’s easy-to-use interface is manageable for patients and caregivers and allows people with dementia to complete up to 600 percent more exercises at home than in the clinic alone. Just as important, sustained Constant Therapy use can boost users’ sense of confidence and offer hope through the prospect of further improvement.
Read the research
Edgar, D. L., & Bargmann, P. L. (2021). Clinical Study of the Effectiveness of Constant Therapy in the Treatment of Clients With Dementia: Implications for Telepractice. Perspectives of the ASHA Special Interest Groups, 6(3), 691–703. doi:10.1044/2021_persp-20-00123