Technology in the care system has come a long way, with the COVID-19 pandemic highlighting the need for more remote assistive technology.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Could Viagra help prevent and treat Alzheimer’s?
A new study shows the impotence drug could support a 69 per cent reduction in the likelihood of developing the disease
Erectile dysfunction drug Viagra could have a key role in the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study has revealed.
And through analysis of more than seven million patients, the Cleveland Clinic study has revealed that the drug is associated with a 69 per cent reduction in incidence of Alzheimer’s.
“Recent studies show that the interplay between amyloid and tau is a greater contributor to Alzheimer’s than either by itself,” said Dr Feixiong Cheng, of Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Medicine Institute, who led the research team.
“Therefore, we hypothesized that drugs targeting the molecular network intersection of amyloid and tau endophenotypes should have the greatest potential for success.”
In the study, it was established that sildenafil (Viagra) users were 69 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than non-sildenafil users after six years of follow-up.
Specifically, sildenafil had a 55 per cent reduced risk of the disease compared to losartan, 63 per cent compared to metformin, 65 per cent compared to diltiazem and 64 per cent compared to glimepiride.
Drug repurposing – use of an existing drug for new therapeutic purposes – offers a practical alternative to the costly and time-consuming traditional drug discovery process, and could support the millions of people living with Alzheimer’s globally in accessing treatments more quickly.
Dr Cheng’s team has found that understanding subtypes (endophenotypes) of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease may help to reveal common underlying mechanisms and lead to discovery of actionable targets for drug repurposing.
The buildup of beta amyloid and tau proteins in the brain leads to amyloid plaques and tau neurofibrillary tangles – two hallmarks of Alzheimer’s-related brain changes. The amount and location of these proteins in the brain may help define endophenotypes.
However, no FDA-approved, anti-amyloid or anti-tau small molecule Alzheimer’s treatments currently exist, with many clinical trials for such treatments having failed in the past decade.
Using a large gene-mapping network, researchers integrated genetic and other biologic data to determine which of over 1,600 FDA-approved drugs could be an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.
They pinpointed drugs that target both amyloid and tau as having higher scores compared to drugs that target just one or the other.
“Sildenafil, which has been shown to significantly improve cognition and memory in preclinical models, presented as the best drug candidate,” said Dr Cheng.
“Notably, we found that sildenafil use reduced the likelihood of Alzheimer’s in individuals with coronary artery disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, all of which are comorbidities significantly associated with risk of the disease, as well as in those without.”
“This paper is an example of a growing area of research in precision medicine where big data is key to connecting the dots between existing drugs and a complex disease like Alzheimer’s,” said Dr Jean Yuan, program director of Translational Bioinformatics and Drug Development at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funded this research.
“This is one of many efforts we are supporting to find existing drugs or available safe compounds for other conditions that would be good candidates for Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials.”
A phase II randomised clinical trial is now being planned to advance the study, as well as the approach also being applied to other neurodegenerative conditions.
Support at your fingertips – new resources for family dementia carers
Dementia Carers Count (DCC) is a national charity offering free, life-changing, practical support for families living with dementia.
The charity has just launched its new Virtual Carers Centre and runs regular online learning sessions, enabling carers to access essential support wherever they are.
DCC gives family carers the opportunity to understand more about dementia, to connect with others in a similar situation and to look after themselves while navigating the highs and lows of caring for someone with dementia.
It’s the ideal place to signpost carers to, for information and resources to help them with their day to day challenges.
Here is Stuart’s story.
Stuart met Roger in 1985, they’ve been in a registered partnership since 1995. Roger was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer’s when he was 57.
Roger has deteriorated considerably since his diagnosis and, as well as caring for him full time, Stuart has had to take on more and more at home.
Although Roger’s interests have changed his mood has remained good. He’s always smiling, and people tend to be drawn to him.
Stuart feels a bit frustrated now that he’s increasingly having to do more and more for Roger. He didn’t choose to be a carer and thought that by now, he would be enjoying my retirement and living happily ever after.
At the start of the pandemic Stuart began using technology like Zoom. He first found out about Dementia Carers Count (DCC) in an online, young-onset support group. He registered for some of DCC’s online learning sessions.
“The online courses have been like gold dust and have increased my knowledge of dementia and Alzheimer’s. The people leading the sessions are easy-going, supportive and understanding…. They’ve been a lifeline for people like me during the pandemic.”
“DCC’s digital services are fantastic. They are very informative, accessible, and the content is presented in a way that is easy to understand. During the sessions, you can talk about your specific challenges and connect with the other people attending. “
Stuart says that the support DCC provides him has helped him immensely and is extremely useful to anyone in a caring situation.
“The information comes from people with experience and knowledge. It will help you understand what is going on for the person you care for and develop a better caring strategy. Everyone running the sessions is very patient and nurturing towards the people attending.”
DCC is here to help families living with dementia.
DCC’s Virtual Carers Centre is a brand new resource for family or friends who are looking after someone with dementia. It’s accessible any time; day or night, complete with articles, videos, presentations and more.
Carers will find all the support they need, including:
✔️ Practical information about carers’ rights and benefits
✔️How to manage everyday emotions and changes in behaviour
✔️Wellbeing strategies for carers and for the person they are supporting
✔️The opportunity to book on to Live Online Learning sessions covering various topics
T: 020 3096 7895 E: email@example.com
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De-cluttering ‘may not help’ with dementia
People with moderate dementia performed better when surrounded by their usual clutter, a new study has revealed
A clutter-free environment may not help people with dementia carry out daily tasks in the way that has traditionally been thought, a new study has revealed.
Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) studied whether people with dementia were better able to carry out tasks, such as making a cup of tea, at home – surrounded by their usual clutter – or in a clutter-free environment.
And they admit to being “surprised” to find that participants with moderate dementia performed better when surrounded by their usual clutter.
But the different environments made no difference to people with mild and severe dementia, who were able to perform at the same level in both settings.
Professor Eneida Mioshi, from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, said: “The majority of people with dementia live in their own home and usually want to remain living at home for as long as possible.
“So it’s really important to know how people with dementia can be best supported at home – one possible route would be by adapting the physical environment to best suit their needs.
“As dementia progresses, people gradually lose their ability to carry out daily tasks due to changes in their cognitive, perceptual and physical abilities. Participation in daily tasks could then be improved by adapting the person’s environment.
“To this end, we wanted to investigate the role of clutter in activity participation, given the potential to use de-cluttering to support people with dementia to continue to be independent.
“Environmental clutter has been defined as the presence of an excessive number of objects on a surface or the presence of items that are not required for a task.
“It is generally assumed that a person with dementia will be better able to carry out daily tasks when their home space is tidy and clutter free.
“However, there has been very little research to really test this hypothesis.
“We wanted to see whether clutter was negatively affecting people with dementia. So we studied how people at different stages of dementia coped with carrying out daily tasks at home, surrounded by their usual clutter, compared to in a clutter-free setting – a specially designed home research lab.”
Occupational therapist and PhD student Julieta Camino carried out the study with 65 participants who were grouped into those with mild, moderate and severe dementia.
They were asked to carry out daily tasks including making a cup of tea and making a simple meal, both at their own home and at UEA’s specially-designed NEAT research bungalow – a fully furnished research facility that feels just like a domestic bungalow.
The researchers evaluated performance of activities in both settings, and also measured the amount of clutter in the participants’ homes. Meanwhile, the NEAT home setting was completely clutter free.
Julieta, also from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, said: “We thought that the complete absence of clutter in our research bungalow would play a beneficial role in helping people with dementia with daily living activities. But we were wrong.
“We were surprised to find that overall, people with moderate dementia, in particular, performed daily tasks better at home – even though their homes were significantly more cluttered than our research bungalow.
“And it didn’t seem to make any difference how cluttered the participant’s home was. The only factor that contributed to how well they could carry out tasks at home was their level of cognition – with those with severe dementia encountering the same difficulties to perform the tasks at home and in the research bungalow.”
This research received funding from the Alzheimer’s Society and National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration East of England (ARC EoE) programme.
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