June 3, 2022 - Podcast

Episode 275 — Caregiving apps, and adverse childhood experiences

Being a caregiver to a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia is not often something a person is properly trained to do. Many caregivers use apps to help them through, but a recent study by researchers from the Indiana University School of Public Health in Bloomington found that many apps aren’t as good as they could be. The researchers examined 17 available smartphone apps intended to assist caregivers of those living with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. Mobile app technologies have the potential to serve the needs of caregivers who lack formal training and other critical resources and support. The researchers evaluated apps using the Mobile App Rating Scale, which includes 23 rating items across five dimensions: engagement, functionality, aesthetics, information and subjective quality. The apps included in the study were, on average, determined to be of minimally acceptable quality, which isn’t good enough, says IU researcher Richard Holden. He says apps need to be more usable, better rooted in evidence, more engaging and of overall higher quality. The researchers are working to ensure caregivers have high-quality apps, and going forward, they’ll be focusing on user-centered design.

In other news, 27 percent of Hoosiers under 18 have experienced at least two adverse childhood experiences, compared to 22.6 percent of the U.S. child population. Such experiences include emotional, physical or sexual abuse; domestic violence; and living with a household member who has substance use disorder, mental illness or who has been incarcerated. Additionally, more than 47 percent of Hoosier youth have experienced at least one adverse childhood experience in their lives. To help, the Kinsey Institute at IU is working with rural Indiana elementary and middle schools to promote healthy relationships. Most sexual assault prevention efforts are focused on college students. Patterns are already well established by the time people get to college, but focusing on college students is also problematic because a large portion of the population doesn't go to college and doesn't then have access to those messages, says Zoë Peterson, director of the Sexual Assault Research Initiative. Intervening earlier and with a broader population is really important, she says. The Healthy Relationships Initiative works with school leaders and community organizations in rural Indiana to train adults and educate elementary and middle school children. The initiative focuses on digital safety, interpersonal boundaries and healthy relationships. IU studies have found children in rural communities are more likely to experience abuse, neglect and other forms of maltreatment, and Indiana ranks 38th in terms of parental knowledge of adverse childhood experiences and their consequences. The initiative began in the fall of 2019, and researchers hope to continue to deliver more trainings for school personnel and workshops for parents and community members implementing these programs.