Researchers from the University of Exeter will appear on BBC Two’s flagship science strand Horizon this week [8pm on Wednesday May 11] to talk about a form of therapy which is yielding promising results in helping people with dementia manage the effects of the condition and improve their everyday lives.
The programme will feature a clinical trial that investigates whether goal-oriented cognitive rehabilitation can help to improve engagement in everyday activities and overall enjoyment of life for people living with the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia.
The individualised therapy is structured around practical goals that the person with dementia sees as meaningful and important to address. These can include managing everyday tasks that have become difficult, resuming enjoyable activities, and learning new skills. The person with dementia works with the therapist to plan the best way of tackling each goal. The therapist assesses what the person is able to do, what the activity involves, and how the person’s environment can support goal attainment, and then devises strategies to enable the person to achieve the goal.
A range of evidence-based techniques can be employed; this includes both ‘restorative’ techniques that help with taking in important information or learning new skills (for example, learning to use a mobile phone to make calls in order to feel more confident going out alone), and ‘compensatory’ techniques that provide alternative ways of getting around difficulties and obstacles (for example, introducing the use of a calendar or whiteboard to help remember key details and appointments). Early evidence suggests that cognitive rehabilitation can improve people’s ability to carry out tasks and engage in activities, lessening the impact that dementia can have on everyday life, both for the person living with dementia and for other family members.
The Goal-oriented Cognitive Rehabilitation in Early-stage Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias Trial (GREAT) is led by the University of Exeter and funded by the National Institute for Health Research through its Health Technology Assessment Programme. With data from over 500 participants recruited through eight research sites, the trial aims to establish whether the therapy can make a meaningful difference in helping people engage in everyday activities and maintain their interests. The results of the trial will be available in 2017.
Study lead Linda Clare, Professor of Clinical Psychology of Ageing and Dementia at the University of Exeter, developed the cognitive rehabilitation approach for people with memory difficulties. She said: “I am delighted that more people will hear about the potential benefits of cognitive rehabilitation for people living with dementia through the BBC Horizon programme. There is a great deal that can be done to enable people with memory problems to remain active and independent. Cognitive rehabilitation is personalised and focuses on things that will make an immediate difference to each individual. It is a particularly promising approach to increasing independence and enjoyment of life for people with dementia."
The research will be featured on BBC Two’s Horizon programme ahead of Dementia Awareness Week (May 17-23).
Based on the study’s findings, the research team plans to develop a free self-help guide for people with memory problems and their families, and manuals and training courses for healthcare professionals. If you would like to receive these materials when they become available please leave your contact details with the project team: register your interest on the project website www.exeter.ac.uk/great