Cognition and Everyday Function in Early Dementia
This week is Carers week; and today we look at a study that involves informal carers. The Cognition and Everyday Function in Early Dementia study tries to evaluate how memory and the ability to process information (cognition), is linked to performance of everyday tasks such as preparing a hot meal or taking medication.
Little is known about how individual everyday tasks rely on specific cognitive functions. This study will assess these very detailed relationships, which will guide the development of targeted interventions in the early stages of dementia.
The study forms part of a PhD in Cognitive Neuropsychology which examines cognitive deficits in mild dementia and its impact on everyday task performance. We caught up with Clarissa Giebel, Chief Investigator for the study.
What is the main aim of the study?
The main aim of this study is to see which types of cognition are linked to performing everyday activities. So for example, is memory for future intentions (prospective memory) linked to monitoring your day or following a familiar route or going grocery shopping. I’m looking at this in people with mild dementia.
I look at different forms of memory but I also look at different forms of cognition, so for example executive functioning or attention, and I see how all of these types of cognition contribute to people with mild dementia not being able to perform these tasks anymore.
This study includes involvement from a carer. What does that entail?
I do primarily home visits. They last two hours. During these two hours, I do all the memory questions with the person with dementia; then I give the informal carer two questionnaires, where they can rate the performance of doing everyday tasks of their relative with dementia, and that lasts only 15 minutes or so.
What would be an example of the memory questions for the participant with dementia?
I will show, for example, 12 different names, and the person needs to recognise them afterwards from a set of names.
What do you hope to do with the outcome of the study?
Ultimately, I hope to develop cognitive interventions based on this evidence, but this is only one piece of evidence, we need a bit more research. But if we know that certain types of memory relate to being able to be independent in a certain area, we can develop cognitive interventions that tackle that memory and improve that memory, to then be more independent again in your own home.
Could you give an example of a cognitive intervention?
One example could be using memory aids or using different techniques to improve their remembering something again when they’ve learnt it in the morning, and then remember it in the evening.
So it’s looking at ways people with dementia can stay home for longer and live as ‘normal’ a life as possible?
Absolutely; which improves their wellbeing, they don’t have to move into a nursing home. And if they are a little more independent again, their informal carers will be less stressed as well because they don’t have to care as much for the person with dementia.
What made you want to get involved in this area of research?
I’ve done a Bachelor in Psychology, and then I’ve done a Masters in Memory Disorders and Neuropsychology, so I just found it really interesting how impairment in the brain can impact on your day-to-day life really. And there’s very little known on this area, so it’s a good way of doing research in it.
This is a one-off visit to participants home (lasting a maximum of 2 hours); this includes several opportunities to take small breaks in order to keep the testing interesting and to keep participants motivated. If preferred, it is possible to have the visit split into two one-hour sessions. Alternatively, it is also possible to go to the University of Manchester for the visit if preferred; and travel expenses will be reimbursed.
Participants will be asked to complete a variety of brief tests which will help researchers to assess their memory and ability to process information.
The research team are looking for people who are experiencing memory problems of any age, who have a diagnosis of dementia and have an informal carer.
The team are hoping to recruit 50 people with memory problems and 50 informal carers in Greater Manchester to take part.
You can see if you are eligible for this study – and others around the nation by signing up with Join Dementia Research today.