UNMC researcher conducting Fremont area study in 55 and older with pain

FREMONT – University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing researchers are conducting a pilot study to evaluate the use of the “smart” Google Home Mini device to help older adults manage their pain.

Funded by UNMC’s Center for Patient, Family, and Community Engagement in Chronic Care Management, the study will enroll 20 study participants 55 years and older who live in the Fremont area — within Dodge County — and have chronic muscle and joint pain that has not subsided in at least the last three months.

Devices such as the Google Home Mini are often compared to an electronic personal assistant. At almost four inches wide and two inches high, it looks like a speaker and allows consumers with various mobile “smart” devices such as a smartphone, to control lights and electronics in the home, get answers to questions, and get information and play music from the internet and other sources with their voice.

Researchers say the assistant can help overcome age-related barriers such as loss of vision, physical impairment, and some aspects of hearing loss and has the potential to help people.

“My goal is to harness existing and new technologies to help older adults manage their pain, particularly in smaller towns and areas where there are is a growing shortage of primary health providers with expertise in pain and pharmacology in older adults,” said Marcia Shade, Ph.D., assistant professor at the College of Nursing. “Self-management is a key component of pain management and should be increased.”

Other study requirements are participants must currently be taking at least a daily scheduled pain medication – either prescribed or over-the-counter, have a computer, wireless internet access in their home and have an email address. Those with memory loss or severe cognitive impairment are excluded from the study because of the need to recall and answer questionnaires about their experience.

The small study will be used to determine the feasibility of applying for a large federal grant.

Participants will complete two pain medication reminder tasks for a month using the Google Home Mini. Baseline- and one-month questionnaires will be administered, and after the project is complete, participants may keep the device.

All phases of the study will be accomplished in the participant’s home. Participants will not travel to Omaha.

For more information about the study, contact Dr. Shade at marcia.shade@unmc.edu or (402) 559-6641.

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