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Fun and games for people with Dementia

You're flicking through the tv channels and you come across a re-run of a Morecambe and Wise Christmas special, they don't make 'em like that anymore. It takes you back.

Or perhaps you're clearing out the cupboard under the stairs and you find an old photo album and start turining the pages, suddenly you can almost taste the Ouzo.

Remember you're a womble? You may do if hear a snippet of an old song on the radio.

This is precisely the response MyLife SPG is generating in people with dementia who are using their unique digital reminiscence software. Dementia is progressive and it is often the oldest and most precious memories which are retained longest, they only need a trigger. 

Reminiscence therapy has long been used to counsel and support older people, and is an intervention technique with brain-injured patients. This form of therapeutic intervention aims to help the patient maintain good mental health. Participants are guided by a trained person to reflect on a variety of aspects relating to their lives. This may be themed and centre on one period in time or it may be wider and reflect a guided discussion through an issue. The therapist may use music, photographs, replica documents, drama and sensory gardens to stimulate debate and discussion for the participants but because these are physical objects, the scope of sessions is necessarily limited.

MyLife have taken this conventional therapy to a new level by developing a multimedia software package loaded with media content purchased from the Mirror Group newspapers and clips of classic tv shows and pop singles. The system makes remisiscence therapy much more interactive and allows the carers to tailor sessions to the particular patient. If a clip of Andy Pandy or a Gerry and the Pacemaker hit, for example, triggers a memory of youth from a participant it can be saved to a personal profile and used in future sessions. This way, the sessions become ever more effective for a particular patient.

Also, the software allows the carer to easily download new content via a memory stick, perhaps images or video of family, grandchildren perhaps, which can be used for sessions and form a "life book" preserving current memories for the future. It's not all about looking to the past.

The company have great plans to introduce further functionality, skype links with distant loved ones and games and activities all aimed at mentally stimulating patients and keeping their intellect as sharp as possible.

 Many patients in the UK are benefitting from this unique software and there are early indications that it can delay the worst symptoms of dementia and reduce the need for ant-psychotic drugs. To find out more follow this link

http://vimeo.com/29825085  or visit the MyLife website http://mylifesoftware.com/ 

Independent players in Dementia are excited about the potential for the software to improve the lives of people living with Dementia. The following is an interview conducted by the Dementia Action Alliance with MyLife.

 1. How would you describe your organisation’s role in delivering better outcomes for people with dementia and their carers?

My Life is a new business dedicated to improving the quality of life for people affected by dementia. The company has recently incorporated new innovations and technologies into DRTS, a software package that provides a range of resources tailored to meet the needs and requirements of people with dementia, their family and professional carers. Using touch screen computers these resources, that include reminiscence tools, communication support and interactive games, now become easily available to individuals or by connecting into television sets to small groups of older people. Designed by carers, DRTS emanates from meticulous research involving care staff, patients and family members to provide patient centred support and care at the touch of a finger.

  • Testimonials from professional and family carers in a variety of care settings provide compelling insights into the benefits for people affected by dementia. Benefits of using the software include:
    Improved engagement, interaction and communication with carers and family.
  • A reduction in levels of frustration and boredom by providing ideas, information and enabling participation in games and shared activities.
  • Personalised support and resources which can be saved and revisited at any time enabling a much-needed continuity in conversation and interaction.
  • A record of activities undertaken to enable the quality of care to be measured.

There are three ways in which My Life is working to improve outcomes for older people and people affected by dementia:

  1. Increasing the accessibility of DRTS to everyone who has potential to benefit and gain from this software application by working with health and social care commissioners and further developing the product making it easier to purchase and easier to use by creating an application that can be downloaded from the internet onto a wider range of touch screen devices.
  2. Further improve the interventions, resources and information available within DRTS to meet as many needs of those people affected by dementia as possible by involving health professionals, family carers and patients in the ongoing programme of product
    development.
  3. To establish more robust evidence of the benefits and value to individuals, the NHS, adult social care and the wider community of using this innovation and in particular to overcome some of the more traditional misconceptions that very little can be done to help. This will be achieved by engaging with and supporting opinion leaders, the research community, and patient organisations to develop.

What are the challenges to delivering these outcomes from the perspective of your
organisation?
 

My Life has identified five challenges that we are working to overcome in order to make a real difference to older people:
 

  1. The reluctance by care commissioners and providers to invest time and money in new ways of delivering care for patients and carers.
  2. Complex and time consuming decision and purchasing processes duplicated many many times over across the NHS and social care that are limiting choice and opportunity for people with dementia and their carers.
  3. Insufficient collaboration and cooperation between health and social care preventing shared cost effective investment decisions being made across health and social care providers.
  4. Ensuring that as many people as possible have access to the product based on their needs and potential to benefit rather than on their individual ability to pay.
  5. Addressing the inadequate evidence base describing the efficacy and affordability of delivering reminiscence therapies and building a comprehensive business case that articulates our customers' stories of how My Life's technology-based approach enables therapy to be tailored to individual needs, provided more frequently and delivered confidently by family members as well as professional carers and clinicians to a high and consistent standard resulting in improvements in the quality of life for both patients and carers.

What are your plans as an organisation to respond to these challenges between now and 2014?

By the end of 2012 we will:

  • Recruit new partners to enable My Life undertake an ongoing programme of network development to expand the breadth and depth of connections and influence. A priority is to engage with the changing national and local commissioning structures within the new NHS and social care environment. With the intention of making our product more accessible to those who can benefit from it, we aim to start a dialogue with key influencers, Health and Well-being boards, Clinical Commissioning Groups and their shared services as well as existing procurement hubs to gain product approvals and to understand and influence opinion and strategy behind the developing procurement pathways.
  • Achieved a significant increase in the organisations that are able to provide the benefits of DRTS to their patients and carers. We will continue to build and expand our network of customers, clinical professionals and users with a focus on compiling and sharing qualitative and quantitative evidence behind the stories of benefits our product brings to people with dementia, their carers.
  • Have led a pilot site study with a care provider to demonstrate how to successfully implement DRTS into a care setting and disseminate the approach and results.
  • Attended a comprehensive programme of conferences and communication events to showcase the product benefits to a wider and growing audience of opinion leaders, clinical professions and other supporters.
  • Tested and be ready to launch the next release of the software that will incorporate many additional features in response to user feedback including tools that support the diagnosis of dementia.
  • Add a web based DRTS application to the portfolio that can be downloaded and used on a wide array of touch screen devices already owned by individuals and organisations. A web based version will increase the accessibility and availability as well as being simpler and less expensive to maintain and update.

Beyond 2012 we will:

  • Be supporting collaborative projects involving academic, third sector and clinical partners which expand the knowledge and understanding of the benefits and cost effectiveness of DRTS.
  • Have greatly expanded the communication capability so that people can use the software to communicate with family and friends world wide.
  • Add new languages to DRTS so that the product is bringing benefits to people from an array of nationalities.
  • Have a well advanced programme of work developing the capability to share patient safety information with providers and professionals for the purpose of supporting and protecting vulnerable older people.
  • Have significantly improved the perception that there is little that can be done to improve the quality of life for people affected by dementia and changed the belief that those with cognitive impairment cannot use technology.
A patient with dementia.

A patient with dementia.

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