Helping Patients With Dementia Live Well

Care Services Minister Paul Burstow unveiled a range of new design prototypes at the Design Council that can help people with dementia to live well, which included a fragrance-release system designed to stimulate appetite, specially-trained ‘guide dogs for the mind’ and an intelligent wristband that supports people with dementia to stay active safely.

The innovative designs will be a large step forward in achieving some of the commitments the Prime Minister recently announced in his challenge on dementia. The Design Council, together with the Department of Health, ran a national competition that was open to designers and experts, in order to develop new ideas to help improve the lives of people suffering from dementia.

Five teams designed innovative product concepts and services under the guidance of in-depth research and people affected by dementia. The results are prototypes that will undergo further testing so they can be developed with commercial partners so that some or all of these designs will be widely available as soon as possible.

The new designs introduced at the Design Council are:

  • The buddiband – a discrete wristband personal alarm, which is comfortable and waterproof, and is fitted with the most powerful possible rechargeable battery to avoid constant replacement and the need to be charged on a daily basis. It contains cutting edge technology to keep care-takers informed of the wearer’s welfare and respond if needed. It features a manual emergency alert that enables responses handled by buddi’s 24/7 emergency response center and has an automatic fall alert, which means if a user has a fall, the wristband detects it and calls for assistance.

The wristband has lifestyle monitoring, which detects variances in typical activity levels; for instance, if a user’s activity levels drop considerably, the system alerts the user or carer. In addition to a host of other features, the buddiband also allows carers to keep an eye on activity levels without being present.
  • Grouple – a secure, private, online, social network that assists families to plan and share care the responsibilities of caring for someone with dementia, including visits, appointments, observations and questions. Each grouple hub’s centre has a timeline, where members can post items like visits, appointments, observations and questions, and quickly sees and fills in any gaps in the schedule. It allows for care decisions to easily being discussed and become informed by everyone’s observations. The system allows for reports to be created and printed based on the content of the timeline, which helps medical professionals and updates ‘offline’ family members. Given that many caretakers are not completely computer literate, grouple is based on the most simple, attractive and intuitive possible design. Grouple allows members of a care network to easily post their care-schedules, ideas and experiences, share responsibilities and coordinate efforts to offer consistent and regular care without overburdening one single person.
  • Dementia Dog – a new approach, whereby specially selected assistance dogs are trained to help and protect the wellbeing of those with dementia so they can lead a more fulfilled, independent and stress-free life.
Dogs will be trained to support existing patterns of waking, sleeping and eating for people with dementia by responding to sound alerts. They will be able to assist with regular hydration, medication and toilet use and can be trained to provide orientation outside the home. Given that people with dementia can have widely differing needs, depending both on their symptoms and their individual lifestyles, the training can be adapted to accommodate each individual’s needs, so that ultimately, each dog will be trained with the person with dementia and their care taker, so all three operate as one team.
  • Trading Times – a website that assists care takers in finding flexible employment, connecting carers with local businesses for flexible paid work. The service is free to carers, with employers paying on a transactional basis. The Trading Times website will provide a full range of tools and templates to help both carers and employers, including carer chat forums, an email helpline, a database with guidance as well as success stories. Carers will have to complete a simple profile that lists their work skills and name the number of hours they wish to work. Each new carer will be welcomed by telephone by a local community manager to help them get started. Employers will either post short job adverts or search for local carers with relevant profiles, whilst both carers and employers will also be able to add performance-related feedback to each other’s profiles.
  • Ode – A fragrance-release system that helps to stimulate appetite in those with dementia by releasing three food fragrances a day via a mains-powered unit, which can be adjusted to coincide with the user’s mealtimes. Leading fragrance laboratories have developed the scents especially for ode in response to workshop feedback, with users being able to select which scent they prefer at installation. The fragrances are released in short sharp bursts and strongly trigger the person’s appetite, dissipating rapidly so users will not become inured to the effect. The device communicates when the fragrances need to be refilled and a subtle light indicates when the device is in operation.

The Design Council will showcase the new prototypes in a purpose-built exhibition on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 April 2012.

Paul Burstow, Care Services Minister, explained:

“Fear of dementia can leave people feeling powerless and trapped, leaving them isolated and unsupported. That is why we have worked with the Design Council to drive innovation in dementia care. The five winning ideas have the potential to make a big difference for people with dementia and their families. The Design Council work is part of our wider drive to make our country dementia friendly. Today we go further with our partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society to challenge cities, towns and villages up and down the land to lead a revolution in how people think about dementia.

Working with businesses, Councils, the local NHS and community groups our immediate goal is a network of 20 dementia friendly cities, towns and villages to lead the way.”

Chief Executive of the Design Council David Kester, added:

“A consequence of an ageing population is a threefold increase in dementia over the past twenty years. That means there are many millions of people who need new products and services designed to meet their changing needs. This project demonstrates that if you put the people who are living with dementia, including carers, at the centre of the design process, you end up with rapid and inspiring innovation. It’s just what we need right now – both for our local communities and for UK enterprise.”

Professor Alistair Burns, The National Clinical Director for Dementia, commented:

“We’re tackling dementia on a variety of levels, and whilst research into effective treatments is progressing, it’s vital that we develop new ways to improve key aspects of life for those with the condition, and their carers. I have no doubt that the prototypes shown today could have a major positive impact on quality of life, continuity of care and the wellbeing of those with dementia.”

Jeremy Hughes, Chief Executive of Alzheimer’s Society, declared:

“These innovative products have the potential to make a big difference to the quality of life of people with dementia and their carers. They could help people feel supported and enable them to live independently for longer. Earlier this month, the Prime Minister threw down the gauntlet to all of us to help improve the picture for people with dementia. This competition provides one example of how this can be done. We now need to rally more people behind the cause. From the boardroom to bus drivers we all have a role to play.”

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