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Are Interactive Tables a good investment?
I have to admit that I was skeptical when I was first approached by a company that was keen to show me their ‘Magic Table’. Is this another expensive piece of equipment that will gather dust in a corner of the care home and not make any difference to residents’ lives, I wondered. However, my opinion was swiftly changed when I saw the table being demonstrated and it was interacted with by residents with advanced dementia. One lady, who spent most of her time with her empathy doll and did not engage in any of the currently offered activities, became very animated when she interacted through the doll with the table – giving him the opportunity to ‘pop’ the bubbles that were circling across the table and praising him each time this happened, with her help. Remarkably, a few hours later this lady was still happily recalling the lovely time her baby had had with the bubbles
For those who are not familiar with the devices, an interactive table is a projector that creates interactive images onto a surface. The motion-activated technology enables the users to engage in a sensory experience that is visual and can be added to with sounds and music and also with tactile experiences through the use of tools such as balls, brushes and foam noodles. There is a selection of apps, with some that are purely aimed at sensory engagement and others that provide cognitive and social stimulation through an element of competition or reminiscence. They can be used to help individuals to unwind and relax or to stimulate and energise.
Having researched the interactive tables available I thought that it would be helpful to share here some of the key points to consider.
- Can the table be mobilised to go to individuals, for example in their own rooms, or moved around the care environment so that it can be used flexibility?
- How many apps are included in the price and can more be added?
- Can the image be projected onto a range of surfaces including: table, floor, bedcover without loss of quality of the image?
- Is there a high-quality sound system?
- What does the warranty cover and what are the servicing charges?
- What is the lifespan in hours of the projector bulb and how much is a replacement bulb?
- How easy is it to replace the bulb or does this need to be included in the servicing of the table?
- Is there a plug socket and sufficient space for the table and chairs for users, without causing any mobility safety hazards?
The suppliers of the interactive tables are keen to describe how the use of their devices can transform the lives of people living with dementia but whilst the word ‘magic’ is often used in connection with it, it is, of course, not actually magic and does require some planning and support to enable individuals to benefit. Simply seating a resident in front of the table and leaving them to it will not achieve much, especially if the person is at an advanced stage of dementia and is a missed opportunity for connecting with the person by sharing the experience with them. Use of the individual’s personal history will provide ideas for which apps might be of interest and possibly provide ideas for group activities with like-minded residents. Others might be encouraged to engage in a more spontaneous way as they encounter the table, if it is left switched on and in a thoroughfare used regularly by residents.
You can find out more about interactive tables from suppliers such as https://omi.uk/; https://www.tover.care/uk/tovertafel; https://www.social-ability.co.uk/a-proven-activity-for-people-living-with-dementia/
You can also use the PAL Instrument powered free of charge from the QCS website, to guide you in how to use the interactive table with individuals at different levels of dementia. You can download PAL for free below and try using it to improve the experience of your service users, develop the practice of your team and evidence to your CQC Inspector how you are continuing to develop your service.
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