It is known that people developing dementia in its early stages can respond to timely offers of help at home to enhance their experience and coping with dementia, over and above early diagnosis and support now routinely provided in many areas.

One such type of help is advice alongside the use of memory aids and memory training, during the early progress of the condition. The Dementia Early Stage Cognitive Aids New Trial (DESCANT) is looking to test out this form of help to see if it is effective and realistic to roll out in the NHS and other organisations.

We caught up with Professor David Challis, Chief Investigator on this study, to find out more:

What are the main aims of the study?

We want to find out if the use, and training in the use, of simple memory aids like calendars, clocks, whiteboards with electric timers, and ‘post-it’ note dispensers can be effective for people with dementia and in supporting their carers. We want to investigate the true cost of this type of help and its value for money. We are also looking to know how people best use this help and who is more likely to benefit.

Professor David Challis, Chief Investigator for DESCANT

Professor David Challis, Chief Investigator for DESCANT

What does it involve for a participant?

Participants will be randomised into two groups: one receiving the memory aids and training in their use from a specialist support practitioner, and the other receiving a general guide to dementia for people with dementia and carers, as well as any other treatments that are usually received. All participants will then be interviewed by a researcher using a questionnaire which should take about an hour to complete.

Participants will be asked to complete two further follow-up interviews with a researcher at 3 and 12 months from the time they first participated in the study. This is so that we can explore their opinions, quality of life and use of services to establish whether the memory aids support is effective.

How long is the study for?

Participants will be invited to take part in the research interview on three occasions: when first entering the study and at 3 and 12 months after that. Those receiving the memory aids and training will be visited by the specialist support practitioner over a period of 4 weeks; twice at home with two telephone support sessions.

What do you hope the outcomes of the study will be?

We hope to demonstrate that the provision of simple memory aids, and training in their use, will offer benefits to people with dementia in terms of their abilities to undertake normal everyday activities and also support their carers. We will also use the information collected as part of the study to see if the approach can be rolled out in a realistic way to voluntary organisations and the NHS in the future.

Where is the study based?

The study is based at the University of Manchester and we are recruiting in two areas of England at present: the areas covered by Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust and North East London NHS Foundation Trust. However, there are plans to extend recruitment to other areas of England in the near future.

Who can take part?

We are looking for participants with a diagnosis of dementia in its early stages. Participants must have a carer who supports them, either a relative or friend, to take part in the study.


You can see if you are eligible for this study, as well as others around the nation, by logging into your Join Dementia Research account.

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