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Science & Research: Dealing with Dementia

UK study focuses on using a multisensory approach to help those with dementia.

By wmadministrator

The rate of people diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease continues to rise around the world, with 78 million people expected to be affected by 2030, according to statistics from Alzheimer’s Disease International.

The University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has long been instrumental in exploring the impact of aging and is now seeking participants for a research study that focuses on improving care for those with dementia.

The Harmony at H.O.M.E. (Help Online Modifying the Environment) telehealth program at UK provides training and tools for care partners to assess and modify the home to promote increased engagement for the person with dementia.

Elizabeth Rhodus, an assistant professor at Sanders-Brown, explains that as the body and brain age, one’s ability to take in information, process the content, and respond may be substantially altered.

Older adults often experience hearing loss which can diminish their ability to understand and engage in conversations. Eyesight also changes, which impacts how older adults gather information such as reading and writing. Dementia can also impact the brain’s ability to process information from the ears, eyes, hands and other sensory systems. For example, while a spoken message may be retrieved by the ears, the brain’s processing may be delayed or may not interpret all the information coming in. This, in turn, alters the speed and way the person with dementia responds.

Rhodus said her past experiences as an occupational therapist led her to develop the Harmony at H.O.M.E. intervention methods, which emphasize sensory-based techniques that can be implemented in the home environment to help improve communication with those who have dementia. The techniques, some of which are outlined in the box on the following page, include using multiple methods—ranging from touch, smell and vision to movement and music—to help activate the brain.

Those interested in participating in the study should contact Rhodus at [email protected] or by calling (859) 257-5562.