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Dementia

New partnership to show the power of music for dementia patients

Music therapy is not being used enough in dementia care despite its widespread benefits, but a major new partnership is aiming to change that.

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A campaign group that promotes the use of music in care for dementia patients has formed a new partnership with one of the UK’s leading music organisations to promote its power.

Music for Dementia works with over 200 different organisations to show how integral songs and melodies can be for those with the disease and they have now added UK Music to its list.

Dubbed the ‘Power of Music’, the partnership is looking to get more groups to recognise the impact this can have when it comes to improving overall health and wellbeing.

Grace Meadows, campaign director at Music for Dementia, explained to NR Times a bit more about the collaboration.

“It is a national campaign,” she said. “What we do is we advocate and call for music to be made an integral part of dementia care. 

“We want to make sure that everybody who has dementia has access to music as part of their dementia care should they want it.

“We call for that because we’re passionate about the power of music but also we know that the science shows that music is uniquely placed to support people living with dementia in a range of ways, unlike many other interventions.

“We’ve been having conversations with UK Music for several years now because they’re an important body in the country.

“Through the conversations we’ve been having with them, they understand, appreciate and value the benefits of music, beyond the economic ones, that it brings to the UK.

“They are a powerful voice and they represent the whole industry. So by working with UK Music, we then, by extension, are able to work with lots of other important players in the space.

“There is a big piece of work here that we need to do as a society to improve dementia care and we can do that through music, which is a huge goal of the campaign.”

To strengthen the partnership’s hand both groups have jointly launched a survey to find out the opinions of both individuals and organisations around using music in dementia care.

“We realised that now is a real opportunity here,” Grace said. “Never more has music been so readily available to us but the disconnection of its therapeutic use could be made more of to help improve lives.

“It was agreed that we would undertake a piece of work over the next few months looking at what more needs to be done and how we do that together.

“Rather than have lots of different voices, all saying similar but different things, what we’re trying to do with this survey is find out what are the key things that we can be doing across sectors right now, to really put music front and centre in our health and well being.

“We’re very aware that dementia care doesn’t stop at dementia, it has ripple effects into mental health and lifestyle which is why in the survey, we ask some of the broader questions around music.”

Music for Dementia will use the results to submit a report about the available policy changes in this sector to the government.

They have been a vital part of this campaign, with a number of ministers involved including the department for digital, culture, media and sport minister Caroline Dinenage and health minister Nadine Dorries.

The government is completely on board with the campaign after a meeting with both groups in April, which is vital if any meaningful change is to come out of this.

“They’re incredibly supportive,” Grace said. “We also know that there’s a high level of support from the care minister Helen Whately who has been really impressed by the amount of work that’s gone on in this space.

“We’re very grateful and very delighted that we have that level of support because that is what can make this kind of big system change happen.”

The impact music can have on dementia patients can be huge, with some research suggesting that music therapy reduces the need for medication in over 65 pre cent of dementia patients.

Evidence like this has only increased in recent years, with organisations like Music for Dementia being a voice to have it taken more seriously as an effective method of treatment.

Although this type of therapy will never cure dementia, its impact on a person’s wellbeing can be massive.

The role music can play in improving mental health is well documented, with further research linking a decline in this to neuro conditions like dementia.

“We know that music is good for us, I just don’t think that we know quite how or why or how to use it yet.

“We don’t have a cure for dementia but we do have an obligation to ensure that people living with it have the best possible quality of life and we’ve seen time and time again, the way that this can be achieved is through music.

“What we’re trying to do is unite the voices around music in dementia, there are so many people working in this space and we want to bring all that fantastic work together and unite the message.

“Fundamentally, that message is that music is good for us and it’s particularly good for people living with dementia.”

Music therapy in dementia care is not simply just playing music for a patient, but delivering it to them in a personalised way at the right times, be it through music lessons, group activities or a trained music therapist.

“Every time I talk to somebody about this campaign, they’ve got a personal link to dementia and that’s why we’re doing it.

“So many people are living or have lived this experience of having somebody with dementia in their network, it really does touch us all.”

Dementia

Alzheimer’s Research UK receives diagnostics funding boost

Alzheimer’s Research UK to receive up to US$2m in funding to produce a digital toolkit of apps and wearable technology aimed at aiding earlier diagnosis.

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A woman making a jigsaw puzzle about Alzheimer's disease. The jigsaw is of a white brain on a wooden surface. It has one piece missing which is to the side of the brain.

The US Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) has announced up to US$2m of funding for a collaborative research initiative led by Alzheimer’s Research UK to develop a digital toolkit of apps and wearables to detect the earliest stage of Alzheimer’s.

The funding awarded to the Early Detection of Neurodegenerative Diseases (EDoN) initiative is part of the ADDF Diagnostics Accelerator (DxA), which challenges the global research community to innovate new diagnostic technologies for dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Early detection of neurodegenerative diseases

EDoN is a project led by Alzheimer’s Research UK which combines global experts in data science, digital technology and neurodegeneration. It monitors sleep, fine motor control, heart rate, speech and brain activity to develop digital signs of early disease that could improve dementia research efforts in the future.

EDoN aims to streamline efforts to collect, integrate and analyse a wealth of digital, clinical and health data to help identify the disease earlier.

The data can be compiled to build machine learning models to identify patterns of early disease-specific to different neurodegenerative diseases.

The project aims to incorporate the best measures into an inexpensive and easy-to-use digital toolkit. This will likely be a combination of apps, wearable or mobile devices and software.

Funding and research

The funding will allow the team of researchers to collect digital data from over 600 people who are currently involved in two population-based cohort studies in Australia.

The participants are asked to wear a headband to measure sleep and brain activity, an activity tracker to register heart rate and physical activity.

This will be combined with a smartphone app that measures cognitive function such as speech or fine motor control. This data will be compared to clinical data from the cohorts to help researchers identify the digital measures linked to biological changes.

Participants in the study include people with different levels of Alzheimer’s disease, those with mild cognitive impairment and cognitively healthy volunteers. This will allow researchers to view a wide range of responses across a spectrum of cognitive health. They will follow the individuals involved over time identifying any changes that occur.

Diagnostics accelerator

The diagnostics Accelerator provides funding to increase the development of affordable and accessible diagnostic tools and biomarkers for the disease. The initiative currently funds over 30 projects around the world including a number of blood tests and eye scanning techniques. These tests monitor the early biological changes due to Alzheimer’s disease.

These changes may be undetectable to the human eye but may be picked up by digital technologies.

Read More: Engineers develop ultrasound patch to monitor blood flow

Dr Zoe Kourtzi, scientific director and chair of EDoN Steering Committee, said: “Around the world, there are 50 million people living with dementia — a number that is only set to rise. Global efforts to tackle the diseases that cause dementia are currently hamstrung by our inability to detect them early enough. Digital technology holds enormous potential to put us on the front foot when it comes to identifying diseases like Alzheimer’s earlier, and EDoN is working to make that happen.

“Accurate and cost-effective tools for detecting early neurodegenerative disease will provide essential insight into fundamental disease mechanisms, improve clinical diagnosis and enable existing and future interventions to be given earlier when they have the best possible chance of success.

“We are very excited to be working with the ADDF through the Diagnostics Accelerator. The funding will allow us to identify which digital measures have the most potential for early detection. The richer the data we can collect, and the more precise the algorithms we can develop, the faster we can move towards a digital toolkit that we hope will ultimately help doctors detect diseases like Alzheimer’s 10-15 years earlier than we can today.”

Read more: Seven devices that are revolutionising dementia care

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Dementia

Seven devices that are revolutionising dementia care

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From remote monitoring to GPS tracking, technology can help put family worries at ease when caring for someone with dementia

Technology in the care system has come a long way, with the COVID-19 pandemic highlighting the need for more remote assistive technology.

Although there is no cure for degenerative diseases like dementia, utilising technology can ease the burden on both carers and patients, particularly those living on their own.

A 2020 study from the University of Oxford found that 100 per cent of carers involved said they or their patients benefited from assistive technology.

With this in mind, NR Times takes a closer look at seven devices which are enabling greater independence and life quality for people with dementia.

SmartSole GPS tracker

One concern for families when their relatives with dementia live on their own is the fear that they will leave the house and get lost.

Research suggests this is quite a common problem, with an estimated 40,000 dementia patients going missing for the first time each year.

This is where the SmartSole GPS tracker can come in.

The product uses cellular technology to send its location every five minutes so relatives and carers can locate those living with dementia.

What makes the SmartSole unique is its discreteness. It fits into almost every shoe, so if someone does go missing, those with access to the monitoring system will be alerted straight away.

The Simple Music Player

Music can have a profound effect on people with neurological conditions. Being able to use the technology that provides this, however, can be difficult for those with dementia.

The Simple Music Player is a recommended product from the Alzheimer’s society and it makes listening to music straightforward.

Styled like a traditional radio – which is instantly recognisable for the elderly – the device is easy to use. Simply lift the lid and music will begin to play.

DayClox

Also keeping things simple is the DayClox which makes timekeeping easy and understandable for dementia patients.

Available in both traditional and digital forms, the clock simply shows what day it is and whether it is morning, afternoon, evening or night.

Working out specific times can be a challenge for those with dementia, so the DayClox can assist when it comes to things like keeping track of when someone needs to take their medication.

CaringBridge App

Although not specifically designed for dementia patients, CaringBridge is a free platform that allows everyone involved in caring for an individual to keep up-to-date with their progress.

It gives carers the chance to set up a personal webpage for a patient, which they can post photo and video updates about how they are progressing.

Other people can visit the page, where they can like (called Well Wishes) and comment on the updates, as well as reading their personal story and journal updates.

The Extra Simple Dementia Mobile Phone – Doro 580

The Extra Simple Dementia Mobile Phone, by tech giants Doro, takes away any complication around giving a loved one a phone call.

If the last year has taught us anything, it’s the importance of keeping in touch with loved ones; and some studies suggest that loneliness can speed up the onset of dementia.

With its easy-to-use set up and large buttons, the Dementia Mobile Phone makes calls seamless. Simply link a phone number to each button and press to begin.

Canary Care

Looking for an all-in-one monitoring system? The Canary Care portal is a discrete, wifi-free system that tracks a person’s behaviour without the use of cameras or microphones.

Not only can it follow a person’s movements, bathroom visits and sleeping patterns, it also allows caregivers to track their home’s temperature, sending alerts if anything looks unusual.

Care can be shared around the family through the portal and reminders can be set to check that the proper medication is being taken.

Howz

Howz is similar to Canary Care as it allows those in charge of care to keep track of a person’s activity, notifying them if anything unexpected occurs.

Funded by NHSX, the system is unique as it can connect to a Smart Meter to monitor the electricity output in a person’s home.

This means it can detect any sustained electrical activity, which can help dementia patients in the event they forget to turn off their appliances.

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Dementia

Student creates innovative memory box to help dementia patients

Our senses can help trigger certain memories which are vital to keeping those with dementia connected, with one student from Edinburgh creating a tool to do just that.

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A student from the Edinburgh Napier University has created a reminiscence therapy tool kit which is designed to help dementia patients recall past memories.

The Forget Me Not Box contains a number of tools that are used to activate the five senses, bringing joy to those with dementia while also helping retain their identity.

The kit is fully customisable so patients can explore memories and senses that are unique to them.

Its lid allows photographs to be displayed while the built-in speaker can play a patient’s favourite songs as well as voice notes from family and friends.

The box’s taste cards come with photographs and descriptions of a person’s favourite foods, while the scent bottles allow them to recall familiar smells such as similar perfumes.

All of this keeps a dementia patient’s identity, something which can often be lost particularly in a care home setting.

Furthermore it can be used to improve communication between family members, acting as a conversation starter when people come to visit.

Christy Orr is in the final year of her graphic design degree and created the box as part of her major project after her family’s past experiences with the disease.

“My grandma passed away from Alzheimer’s when I was younger so that’s kind of what motivated me to do the project,” Christy told NR Times. “She was diagnosed when I was quite young, but I do remember the whole diagnosis process.

“That was one of my earliest memories of her. I was there throughout all her dealings with Alzheimer’s until she passed away.”

“The box is mostly about identity and the fact that you still are that person even when you are diagnosed with dementia.”

Christy completed her dissertation around the causes of dementia worry and one of her main findings was this loss of identity among these patients.

This is what the Forget Me Not Box is aiming to do and has already shown its impact, having been tested on people at various stages of dementia.

She has been assisted by both CogniHealth and the Dementia Forward charity with the project, who are looking to help her take the product to market.

“I’ve got the business limited at the moment,” Christy said. “I just need to sit down and think about how the box will actually be made, because currently it’s being made as a prototype out of the things that I had available at the time.

“It’s been sent out for testing and I’ve had some user feedback so far. I was sent some photos from a woman whose mum has dementia and she is in a care home.

“She gave her the box and put her own music in the sound module and some scents in the smell bottles, but she was most interested in the taste cards I created.

“It’s got different food and drinks or anything that you can taste on them, with a little description so it’s usually interesting reading them for those with dementia.”

Christy has also had a lot of help from Edinburgh Napier University, who think the box is a great idea.

“The university has been really supportive,” she said. “I haven’t actually received feedback or got my grade for my major projects yet but it’s been really good so far.

“They created a video about the box and posted it on social media to get the word out about it and they’re excited that I want to continue it on as well, more than just a project.

“I do want to get it to market because I think it’s a thing that could really help people.”

Although the Forget Me Not Box is still in the trial stages Christy wants to start distributing it as soon as possible to show its power.

Not only is the device helping those with dementia but it is also educating others around what it is to live with the condition, showing people that it is possible to live happy with a diagnosis.

“I think the box itself raises awareness that you don’t lose yourself to dementia and that you can still talk to that person that you know with the condition.

“Whether it be you grandma, a family member or a friend they are still the person that they are and the box enforces that.”

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