Psychologists at the University of St Andrews are aiming to aid and improve the communication of Alzheimer’s disease sufferers through the development of innovative interactive computer technology.
The CIRCA (Computer Interactive Reminiscence Conversation Aid) project, co-ordinated at St Andrews by Dr Arlene Astell, a lecturer at the University, is developing a prototype multimedia reminiscence tool which will help sufferers communicate through reactions and responses to memory stimulants.
Dr Astell, who is also co- ordinator of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centre in Dundee, hopes that the interactive touch- screen tool will help improve the quality of life of sufferers through increased communication. It is intended that the technology will stimulate responses by providing prompts in the form of photograqphs, video clips, songs and other sounds familiar to the person with memory loss. If successful, the prototype will have the ability to be adapted according to where the individual was brought up, and significant local and world events the person has lived through.
“As far as we know nothing like this has been done before, perhaps because in dementia research more people are employed trying to find a cure. However, for the thousands of people and their families who currently live with Alzheimer’s or who will develop it in the future, it is also important to look at ways to alleviate the symptoms,” said Dr Astell.
People with dementia know early on that their memory is failing and tend to withdraw from social situations where their failings will be noticeable. Reminiscence can form the basis of communication with a relative or carer and provide positive interactions. It is also hoped that this technique will be helpful in maintaining the identity of the person with dementia by reminding family and care staff that they have a shared history.”
The £400,000 EPSRC-funded project is run jointly by the University of St Andrews and the University of Dundee, and will begin by running pilot studies of the tool in day centres throughout Tayside and North Fife.
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