Posts By / rkeegan

Decreasing spatial disorientation: towards dementia-friendly environments: A progress report

Spatial disorientation is among the earliest indicators of dementia, an increasingly common condition in our ageing society that currently costs the UK £23 billion annually. With support of the Fusion-CCCP strand we have created ViRtUOS (Virtual Reality User Orientation System), a state-of-the-art eye-tracking and virtual environments research platform which will facilitate the study of factors that affect spatial disorientation in people with dementia. Data gathered using ViRtUOS will be used to formulate design principles for dementia-friendly care homes, reducing care costs, and leading to new knowledge with significance and reach.

To develop ViRtUOS we have brought together undergraduate RAs from Computing, Creative Technology and Computer Animation to work co-operatively and as part of a high-level, well-resourced multi-disciplinary team.

This video demonstrates the results of their excellent work:

 CLICK HERE TO VIEW; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w1oo6JXWNuY

So far, this FIF project has been a great success and feedback from the students RAs suggests that they have enjoyed this unique student experience and that working in an inter-disciplinary team has helped them improve their skills.

Excerpts from students’ feedback:

“I enjoyed working on a project which is not exactly ordinary in my field, and working with people who come from different professional backgrounds. It was interesting to see how contrasting subjects tie into the same workflow to try and produce a coherent product. Personally, I am glad to take away new knowledge about my own study subject and the ones of my fellow colleagues; most of that knowledge I will surely apply in my last year of study.” Jurate Pozeraite (Computer Animation, Media School)

“I’ve learnt a lot in my time here, which will be invaluable for both my final year project and my future career. I’ve learnt not only about software development, but about modelling, developing reliable systems, working as a team to produce a joint system and error handling and bug fixing. I feel that working with other students, in a similar position to myself, really helped me in this project. They made me feel at ease and they helped me learn about their roles in developing this system, which otherwise I would have completely ignored. Overall I feel that for me personally this was a very worthwhile project, for expanding my experience and learning something new. I would love to continue my work with this project for as long as possible.” William Chappell (Computing, DEC)

“During the full length of the project I had learnt more and more, I think that this was the best opportunity I have had in a long time. This job gave me lots of experience with people from different schools, which have completely different perspectives. They are both brilliant in their profession and I have learned a lot from them. Also I hope they have learned some things from me. Generally, I have gained new skills including working with ‘Vizard 4.0’ software and ‘3DsMax’. In fact, the project was really interesting and I was glad to not only earn experience from it but also produce a good quality product at the end. Overall I am very happy that I get a chance to work with such a wonderful team. It was a great experience that improves my skills for future projects. If I had a chance to go back in time and redo this project again I will definitely do it.” Arkadiusz Szerszmidt (Creative Technology, DEC)

 We believe that ViRtUOS has great potential to also foster other inter-disciplinary collaborations within BU and we would like to invite academics and students from across BU to get in contact with us, visit the laboratory and explore its potential for their research interests.

The further development of ViRtUOS will be driven by two PhD projects that started in October this year and we are planning to run first experiments investigating spatial orientation in people with dementia soon.

The team, from left to right: Arkadiusz Szerszmidt (undergraduate RA, Creative Technology), William Chappell (undergraduate RA Computing), Mary O’Malley (PhD student, Psychology & BUDI), Mariela Gaete-Reyes (BUDI), Jurate Pozeraite (undergraduate RA, Computer Animation), Chris Ramsey (PhD student, CDE), Jan Wiener (Psychology & BUDI)

 CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE VIDEO !!!

By Mariela Gaete-Reyes & Jan Wiener

Save The Date: ESRC

Dementia in Dorset – What does this mean for you?

Saturday 9th November (1pm-5pm) Littledown Centre Bournemouth, Studio 1 –

Free event for all the family

Bournemouth University Dementia Institute (BUDI) are hosting a community engagement day as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science to showcase a range of their innovative projects which will bring dementia awareness to life through technology, maritime archaeology, exercise and tai chi, an art exhibition and many more fun hands-on-activities.

Visitors will have the chance to understand what it’s like to live with dementia through a talk by someone living with dementia and postcard stories, getting the chance to use technology which has the aim of improving the quality of life of those living with dementia, planting seeds to learn about dementia friendly environments, learning how to make healthy food more appetising to improve the mind and body, and experiencing how massage can reduce anxiety and enhance relaxation for both people living with dementia and their carers.

The BUDI team will be on-hand for a chat or to answer questions, and information from local organisations people living with dementia and carers will be available.

There is no need to register for this event, so just come along!

BUDI works for Internationalising Dementia Education and Research

By Mariela Gaete-Reyes

 Thanks to the Fusion Investment Fund, SMN Strand Santander Scholarships 2012-13, I was able to visit Chile and Colombia as a BUDI ambassador this summer. The objective of the visits was to undertake collaborative work with two institutions and to develop networks with other institutions and academics in both countries to explore the possibilities of working collaboratively with them in the future.

In Santiago I did scoping interviews with 8 key actors working in dementia, which explored the social-economic and political situation of people living with dementia in Chile and their families. These interviews are the basis of a research grant proposal for a comparative study (underway), in which I worked with Dr Paulina Osorio at Universidad de Chile; she is an anthropologist with a PhD in Sociology. What was evident from the interviews was the absence of public policy relating to dementia in Chile, and consequently, the scarcity of state support. Although this can be expected in a country where there is not welfare state, it means that families have to arrange, do and/or pay for all the care. Connected to this is the prevalence of a medicalised view of dementia in Chile which is reflected, in part, in the lack of social research around dementia.

I visited Hospital Clínico Universidad de Chile, and had a meeting with Dr Patricio Fuentes. He is a consultant neurologist and has 20 years of experience working with people with dementia. Dr Fuentes is part of the medical and scientific advisory panel (MSAP) of Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI). In his role, he provides expert advice and acts as the Chilean ambassador for ADI. Dr Fuentes expressed his interest in working collaboratively with us in research.

I got in contact with Corporación Profesional Alzheimer y otras Demencias COPRAD. This is a multidisciplinary organisation constituted by professionals that seek to contribute to the preservation of mental health and the improvement of the quality of life for people living with Alzheimer and other types of dementia, and also their family carers. I had a meeting with the vice-president of this association, Andrea Slachevsky, who is a consultant neurologist and has a PhD in Neuroscience (Paris). Her interests are in public policy and she, together with the corporation and other actors, has been working to put forward a National plan for dementia, this is called: Plan Nacional de Enfermedad de Alzheimer y Otras Demencias.

I had two meetings with the director of Corporación Alzheimer Chile, Nubia Alvarado. This organisation was created by family members of people with dementia and they have several services for individuals with dementia and their families. This organisation subscribes to ADI. Nubia Alvarado also expressed interest in working with us. I also visited the Instituto Nacional de Geriatria, a geriatric hospital, and had a meeting with the Director of the Hospital, Dr. Juana Silva. They have different levels of care for older people: ambulatory, daytime hospitalisation (four hours), this service is provided when somebody needs to be seen by different specialists; the objective is preventing longer periods of hospitalisations; and hospitalisation. Instituto Nacional de Geriatría has a unit which focuses on training, research, dissemination and extension. When I visited they were about to start a course on dementia care. Dr. Juana Silva manifested her interest in working with BUDI.

 

Instituto Nacional de Geriatría. Photos: Courtesy Instituto Nacional de Geriatría.

 
There were at least three people who expressed interest in coming to BUDI as visiting scholars at some point. Jean Gajardo, OT, MSc in Social Gerontology, who is doing a PhD in Public Health at Universidad de Chile. Javier Nuñez, who is a GP and works in matters relating to Dementia, and Agnieszka Bozanic a neuropsychologist who has worked with individuals with dementia and their families. Carolina Perez who works at Instituto Nacional de Geriatría is thinking about undertaking a postgraduate course (MSc or PhD) and was interested in hearing what we could offer.

After being in Chile, I went to Colombia and met a colleague from BUDI, Ben Hicks, to undertake an academic exchange in collaboration with Universidad del Rosario. We had a four day activity programme in Bogota and Nocaima. Our activities in Bogota included giving lectures/presentations at the University and MEDERI hospital to medical and OT students about the work we do at BUDI and other dementia related themes. We also participated in discussion panels. We visited Hospital Universitario de Barrios Unidos to observe a session of the programme PERMEA (Programa de Estimulación y Rehabilitación de la Memoria y la Atención), for the stimulation and rehabilitation of the memory for people with dementia and other memory problems.

Mariela Gaete-Reyes giving a talk at Universidad del Rosario.

 

Ben Hicks giving a talk at Universidad del Rosario.

As part of our academic visit we went to Nocaima a rural community close to Bogota. In Nocaima we were introduced to the Healthy Municipality project and had the opportunity to interact with Semillas de Amor, a group of elderly people. We also visited a care home which depends on the church and on donations of the local community. The care home has 33 residents and only one carer and she manages to do all the care and take them to the GP when needed. Finally, we visited Universidad Nacional de Colombia and held a meeting with the Faculty of Nursing to explore collaborative work in ‘Care for carers’, which is a training programme offered to carers of people with chronic illnesses.   

Hopefully from this visit we will be able to continue working in collaboration with the institutions we visited in Chile and Colombia in dementia research and education. So, many thanks again to the Santander Scholarship.

 
Institutions visited:

Santiago, Chile

  • Instituto Nacional de Geriatría.
  • Hospital Clínico Universidad de Chile, Geriatric section.                                 
  • Corporación Profesional Alzheimer y otras Demencias COPRAD.    
  • Corporación Alzheimer Chile.
  • Universidad de Chile, Facultad de Ciencias Sociales.  

 

Bogotá, Colombia

  • Universidad del Rosario, Facultad de Medicina y Ciencias de la Salud (Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences) and Facultad de Jurisprudencia (Faculty of Law).
  • Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Facultad de enfermería (Faculty of Nursing).      

BUDI Goes To Colombia!!

It was at the age of 23 when I first discovered South America. As an inexperienced backpacker fresh out of university, I decided to spend six months travelling around the continent. I grew my hair, bought some beads and away I went with nothing but a couple of t-shirts and a Lonely Planet guide. The culture, the openness and warmth of the people I met and the beauty of the environment was like nothing I had ever experienced before and it was at this point that I was bitten by the bug (thankfully not malaria). I vowed that by the age of 30 I would return to the continent. I have no idea why I placed this arbitrary figure on my return but it just felt right at the time.

Anyway, thanks to the Santander PGR grant I was able to realise this aspiration and in my 30thyear I spent two weeks over this July and August in Bogota, Colombia. A colleague and I from Bournemouth University Dementia Institute (BUDI) were provided the opportunity to visit and work with the Universidad del Rosario. The Schedule was hectic and full-on and included four full days of lectures and discussions running from 7am to 5pm (Bogota has no seasons and so it is always light at 6am and always dark by 6pm whatever the time of year) arranged by our hosts Laura and Olga who were Occupational Therapist lecturers at the university. We were invited as expert speakers to enlighten, what is fair to say, a very medically minded audience of neuropsychologists, doctors and medical students on more sociological approaches to understanding dementia. Our lectures were warmly received by the audience and interesting discussions have already begun on how BUDI can work with the Universidad del Rosario to introduce more sociological approaches into their teaching schedules and collaborate on future research. This opportunity, as a relatively early career researcher, was nerve-racking yet enthralling and has certainly provided me with the confidence to present, discuss and defend my research in public arenas.

Outside the Local Government HQ with Joanna and Dr Alvaro Mayorga a neuropsychologist from the Universidad del Rosario

However this was not the highlight of the trip for me. This came in the second week when we were introduced to Dr Ricardo Alvarado who was to accompany us on our visit to Nocaima, a small remote settlement just outside of Bogota. As a relatively reserved English PhD student meeting a senior and well respected academic for the first time, I offered out my hand for the usual formalities only to find it being swept aside by Dr Alvarado and replaced by a huge embrace. At this point I remembered why I loved the Latin American people; there was no pretence with them. Dr Alvarado, was genuinely excited to see us. He had read about my PhD work, which involved working with rural communities of Dorset to set up activity groups for older people with dementia, and was keen to show us the work he was doing in Nocaima creating a healthy municipality.

During the winding three hour drive to Nocaima, and despite the fact that it was 6am, Dr Alvarado bounced around the minivan as he attempted to deliver a standing lecture about the work he had been doing with the rural community. He described the many problems which faced rural settlements in Colombia, as lack of jobs, income, and healthcare coupled with drug trafficking, armed conflict and acts of terrorism forced many people, particularly the young and more mobile, to head for the cities and never return. Consequently, this meant that rural communities were dying out and the populations of major cities, particularly Bogota, were rapidly increasing beyond control leaving many people living in cramped dilapidated housing on the fringes of the city. The ‘Healthy Municipality’ project aimed to develop strategies that promoted the commitment of citizens to individual and community health and in doing this it was hoped that it would encourage people to remain within the rural settlements. The project began in 2001 and since then a number of interventions have been implemented to address the needs of the Nocaima community including: employment generation; The Healthy and Useful Schools initiative; a comprehensive human development program and; a basic care plan support for the population. Dr Alvarado described in great depth the work they were doing to educate the young and working age population of Nocaima around health and well-being and to improve the services and development for the area. However until he was made aware of BUDI’s visit he had not considered introducing any initiatives for the elderly population. Despite this though, the elderly in the town had created their own group called ‘Semillas de Amor’ or ‘Seeds of love.’  All members of the group wore a white t-shirt and regularly met (some walking for over three hours each way) to participate in activities and to socialise at the back of one of the facilities that had been constructed as part of the Healthy and Useful Schools Initiative. Dr Alvarado was aware that dementia may be a concern for some of this population, yet as is the case all over the world, stigma and ill-informed perceptions of the condition presented a huge barrier in the society. Although he had recently begun some preliminary work testing for dementia throughout this population, he was keen ‘to pick our brains’ on ways he could work with the community to break down these barriers and to promote the well-being of the elderly population using more sociological and holistic approaches.  

Dr Alvarado providing us with a more sedate lecture on the work of the Healthy Municipality

As soon as we arrived and stepped off the van we were greeted by two members of the ‘Semillas de Amor’ who placed a bag of Clementines into our hands as a welcoming gift and took us to meet the rest of the group. Around 40 elderly people sat outside playing games, drinking tinto (black coffee) and eating cake. Using a mixture of pigeon Spanish and exaggerated hand gestures, I introduced myself and was warmly received by everyone there. Following a half hour meeting with the group, where I was encouraged to continually stand up and speak in an English accent to the amusement of everyone, we were taken to meet Joanna, a senior member of the local authority. She fully embraced Dr Alvarado’s work and had collaborated closely with him to implement many of the strategies in Nocaima. She was keen to show us the town and the care home where a number of elderly people, some with obvious signs of mental ill health, had been abandoned by their families when they migrated to the cities.

The care home was clean and the residents clearly well looked after which was astounding when I was introduced to the one and only carer working in the home. She was responsible for washing and dressing the 33 residents everyday, addressing any medical concerns they had and then working with the chef (the only other employee in the care home) to prepare the meals. It was an arduous task for this one woman, particularly when one of the residents needed to visit the hospital meaning that the chef was left solely in charge of the other 32 residents. At BUDI we continually promote person-centred care approaches, to understand the person and give time and consideration to their care needs, but the situation I was faced with in the care home put everything into stark reality. The care home existed on small funding pots and donations from the community alone. There was no way that additional carers could be employed and so this one woman was left to do everything on her own. Despite this though, she had developed close relationships with the residents, understood what made them ‘tick’ and went out of her way to address all of their care requirements. For this she truly deserves a medal. In fact Joanna described her as half way to heaven already and I had to agree!

However, what really struck me during my visit to Nocaima was the sense of community and the strong bond between the generations of people. People within the community looked out for others in the community as well as those in the care home. When working with rural populations, the informal support and networks that have developed over years of people living together are invaluable when implementing dementia care strategies. Of course they have the potential to be destructive to a person’s well-being if stigma surrounding dementia is prevalent and continually perpetuated but if these communities can come to see dementia in a different light, through initiatives that attempt to raise awareness and understanding of the condition, then they can offer huge support to these people and the benefits can be enormous.

My first trip to Nocaima and my first meeting with Dr Alvarado is something that I will never forget. I am excited about the future work that I can embark on with the community and Dr Alvarado and even on the drive back I was thinking about my first book-setting up Colombia’s first Dementia Friendly Municipality! Still, for now my feet are having to remain firmly grounded as I undertake the ‘small’ task of finishing my PhD. Gracias Nocaima y hasta pronto!

Still rocking the beads (old habits die hard) with one of the care home residents