As we announce a new £20 million research centre focusing on innovation in care research, read about five of the new technologies we hope to see developed here.
There are currently over 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and many of them want to live in their own homes for as long as possible.
Today (17 April), we're announcing a new £20 million research centre that will develop a range of technologies to make that a reality.
In early 2016, Alzheimer’s Society pledged £50 million to support the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI). This breakthrough initiative is attracting the best brains to dementia research in the UK.
Part of this funding will support the UK DRI Care Research and Technology Centre, which will develop technologies to create dementia friendly homes.
Fiona Carragher, Chief Policy and Research Officer at Alzheimer’s Society said:
'Developing dementia shouldn’t have to mean losing your independence and your choice to live in your own home.
But we know there can be problems – from the 74-year-old who kept leaving the gas on, to the woman whose urine infection went undetected so long she ended up spending 12 weeks in hospital – and we want to find a solution.'
5 technologies that could transform lives
Here we share just a few of the types of technology scientists, engineers and doctors will be working to integrate into people’s homes.
Some of this technology will continuously assess physical and mental wellbeing, alerting a person’s medical team of any potential problems at an early stage.
- It may seem like something from the future but the centre will develop robotic devices that interact with people living with dementia and alert them to safety risks - such as a cooker left on or a spilt liquid on the floor.
- Sensors could allow researchers to monitor the vital signs of people with dementia such as blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature in their homes.
- Artificial Intelligence will automatically integrate patient’s information and flag any unexpected changes – for example highlighting a change in walking pattern that might suggest a patient is at risk of a fall, or an elevated temperature that could suggest an infection.
- Tracking changes to memory and thinking abilities by monitoring behaviour in the home with technology that doesn’t interfere with everyday life. Researchers could use this information to anticipate when people with dementia may run into problems.
- We know that infections can exacerbate the symptoms of dementia, so the centre will develop a simple at home test for common infections that can be sent immediately to a person's GP.
Fiona continued: 'We’ve seen technology transform the lives of people with other health conditions. Now, with the work of the UK Dementia Research Institute Care and Technology centre, this is dementia’s moment to benefit from the latest developments in AI, smartphone technology and social robotics.
'But this work has to go hand in hand with the promised Government overhaul of social care – or scarce, expensive and poor quality dementia care will only undermine our efforts to improve people’s lives through technology.'
The human touch
We know that technology will never replace human contact. But with the right approach, assistive technology can bring additional support and peace of mind to people affected by dementia.
Every stage of the development will be supported and guided by people affected by dementia to make sure that all technology is practical and needed. This involvement maximises the impact of every second spent on research and development at the Centre. It also speeds up the time it takes to move new research from the lab, to the clinic and to the real world.
Research will beat dementia – bringing together the best brains from engineering, neuroscience and medicine means the UK DRI can help us get to that vision even quicker.
Supporting people at home
Professor David Sharp, neurologist at Imperial College London and head of the new centre, said:
’The vision for this centre is to use patient-centred technology to help people affected by dementia to live better and for longer in their own homes.
‘Latest figures suggest one in four hospital beds are occupied by people with dementia – and 20 per cent of these admissions are due to preventable causes such as falls, dehydration and infections.
'The new technologies we develop will improve our ability to support people in their homes. They will allow us to intervene at an early stage, to prevent the crises that so often lead to hospital stays, or a move to a care home.’
The centre based at Imperial College London, in collaboration with the University of Surrey will be funded by Alzheimer’s Society alongside the Medical Research Council and Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Support the UK Dementia Research Institute
Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK have joined forces to start the Dementia Revolution at this year's Virgin Money London Marathon. Donate today and lead the charge towards a cure for dementia.