IdeasLab 2014

“Dementia in 2040 - what are the ideas today which will change the world of dementia tomorrow?”

Ideaslab 2014 explored world-wide responses to the above question.

This special event, hosted in Stirling in October 2014, marked the start of the 25th Anniversary of DSDC being at the forefront of dementia thinking and doing.

From the open call five exciting and contrasting ideas were chosen from Australia, Canada, America, Denmark and the UK. IdeasLab put them to the test. See what happened in the films below.

How IdeasLab works

IdeasLab is based on robust exploration, encouragement and exchange. Ideas are presented to an expert Panel and a lively audience with enough time and space to think things through.

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In October the Panel was drawn from the world-wide expertise of International Advisory Board for DSDC. Also in the room were health and care professionals, policy experts, designers, inventors, technologists, researchers and members of the public.

During a one day Ideas Lab 5 main ideas about the future of Dementia were explored. The films on the IdeasLab page give a flavour of what happened.  Here we give space to each idea, explained by the presenter.  The aim is to strengthen these ideas and to generate even more. 

The Ideas at a glance

Click on the "Read about my idea" button for background and thinking behind the idea.

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The ideas in detail

1: Building life stories through social networks

Harnessing the power of social networks such as Facebook offers exciting opportunities to improve the care of people with dementia
— Anders Møller Jensen
Anders Moeller Jensen profile photograph

Anders Møller Jensen from VIA University College, Holstebro in Denmark presented an idea based on building people’s life stories through social media networks. This can be used in reminiscence work to stimulate memory and strengthen identity.

Life story work is valued by dementia care staff and carers but it is often left to the principal carer to collect the material needed to develop the life story.

However, social media opens up the prospect of tapping into the memories of a much wider range of individuals. Former school friends, work colleagues, neighbours and the wider family can all be encouraged to share their memories of the person with dementia to create a story that is more rich and complete.

Anders said a number of computer-based life story programs already exist which can allow photographs, text and video to be shared widely. Friends and family members can be invited to contribute content with the family having the final say on what gets posted for others to see and share.

Privacy is a key issue and the person with dementia has to remain in control and agree to what can be included in their life story.

Technology provides a way of building a person’s life story that is more rich and diverse; it shares the work of doing this across more people and, by creating greater openness around dementia by involving more people, it can help to combat the stigmatisation that continues to exist about the condition.

2: The potential of cognitive stimulation

A model of improved care based around one-to-one cognitive support could be adopted internationally to slow cognitive decline, reduce care costs and lessen family stress.
— Alison Kennedy
Alison Kennedy profile photograph

Alison Kennedy of Kennedy Cognitive Services Inc. in Winnipeg, Canada said research is required to establish the benefits of such an approach but the work of her team has shown that it has considerable potential.

A methodology and toolkits have been developed through work with a group of nine clients over the past six years. This is based on gathering information about the client and his or her abilities and designing slightly challenging, fun activities for stimulating engagement. The client meets with the same trained worker for a one-hour session every one to two weeks.

Alison said the programme has brought joy and meaningful support to the clients and their families. It has helped to discover residual abilities and has improved both self-esteem and quality of life.

Too many people with dementia do not get any opportunity to benefit from cognitive stimulation and she suggested that care support or recreation workers could be trained to deliver this form of help. If it was shown that clients receiving the service were happier, more manageable, retained their cognitive abilities longer and perhaps needed less medication, such an approach may save rather than cost money.

Alison said such a model has the potential to reduce cognitive decline, long term care costs and family stress.

3: Learning from computer games

The success of computer games has been the inspiration behind the creation of a virtual world that people with dementia can explore using a tablet computer.
— Mandy Salomon
Mandy Salomon profile photograph

Mandy Salomon of Swinburne University of Technology in Hawthorn, Australia has developed AVED (Applied Virtual Environment for Dementia Care) to help promote enjoyable engagement among people with dementia.

People with cerebral palsy have responded positively to role playing in a virtual world where they can experience activities through an able-bodied avatar. This has been shown to improve their self-confidence.

In the same way, virtual reality offers opportunities for people with dementia who may be missing the familiar and comforting surroundings of home. AVED has been designed as a 3D home environment with a sitting room, kitchen and garden to help users reconnect with their past.

Ten people with moderate to severe dementia helped to develop AVED by selecting the content and responding to updates. Observation of their use of the tablet helped to determine how engaged they were.

Mandy says experience of using AVED demonstrates that tablet based virtual worlds can be powerful tools for delivering non-pharmacological therapies. They are low in cost and maintenance and there is no need for extensive staff training, formal therapy sessions, dedicated activity rooms or travel.

The tablet is designed to be used with another person and becomes a conduit for interaction, not an end in itself.

4: Monitoring quality of life

Measuring the quality of life of people with dementia can help to monitor the status of their illness and influence their on-going and future care.
— Professor Chengi Kuo
Professor Chengi Kuo profile photograph

A system for doing this has been developed by Chengi Kuo, a retired professor and maritime safety expert from Glasgow, who is the main carer for his wife who has dementia.

His Quality of Life indicator (QLI) is based on an assessment of the interests of a person with dementia. In his wife’s case, that has been food and eating; drawing and shading; using an Ipad; and resting and sleeping. A focus of these interests is helping her to lead a contented and happy life.

At the same time, regular monitoring of these interests can take place to assess her quality of life and any adjustments made to care, as appropriate. Trials with this approach are to be run with a day care centre to determine its wider applicability.

Chengi said the QLI approach has many potential benefits. It provides an important role for carers in identifying interests of the person with dementia that they can then support. It generates positive attitudes that something tangible can be done. It is low cost and can be used in countries that do not have many resources. It can be used with other activities and medical treatments while providing a measure for how well the person is responding to these interventions.

5: International collaboration for dementia friendly communities

Collaboration through shared resources is the key to supporting the development of dementia friendly communities around the world.
— Olivia Mastry
Olivia Mastry profile photograph

Olivia Mastry, Executive Lead at ACT on Alzheimer’s from Minnesota in the United States, proposed that an international online research portal be developed that every country could share to foster and evaluate the development of dementia friendly communities..

Her organisation has developed a model that is being used by 32 diverse communities in Minnesota to improve the care of people with dementia. It is based on a shared portal that uses research information, toolkits and other resources to help develop local action.

There are plans to adopt this across the United States but Olivia said she would like to see the portal made available internationally to prevent duplication of effort and support the development of best practice.

The benefits would include sharing the burden of development and gaining from continuous collaborative learning. Some of the challenges include customising the portal for local use and issues around shared ownership.

She proposed that the best way forward is to establish a multi-country task force to examine the idea in more detail. This could examine securing shared funding, developing guidelines and shared measures for evaluation, and issues of technical assistance.

All this should be able to be done at relatively low cost as each country would be sharing one portal rather than developing its own.