Research in Dementia supported by ISL Malta and St Vincent de Paule Residence

Research in Dementia supported by ISL Malta and St Vincent de Paule Residence
20th September 2017 RIDT
Researchers at the University of Malta are marking World Alzheimer’s Day on 21 September with important research that can have a most useful impact on patients and their carers. The researchers are focusing their study on finding solutions to the challenging issue of persons with dementia wandering off. The researchers aim to identify the dangers imposed on the patients in these situations. Wearable devices, which make use of pervasive electronic monitoring (PEM) applied to a health care setting will involve patients at their early stages of dementia who reside at SVDP (St Vincent de Paule), so that their needs will be better understood.
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The research will be conducted at the University of Malta’s Faculty of ICT Mark Weiser Lab where simulations of the dangers caused by wandering will be studied, to better improve the human activity recognition (HAR) solutions being developed for this project. Volunteers from all ages would be needed to help build a large dataset that will be available to various researchers working in this field. Volunteers may send an email to register their interest to volunteer@pem.space. PEM is supported by Information Systems Limited (ISL) through RIDT (Research, Innovation and Development Trust)  in collaboration with SVDP and the University of Malta.
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This research proposes a tool that utilises Smart Mobile Technologies and a custom-made tool to log patients’ wandering patterns, by making sense of data collected to identify the possible dangers to the patient. The study aims to give useful real time information to the carers about the patient’s status.
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In Malta, the number of individuals with dementia in 2013 was estimated to be 5,301, equivalent to approximately 1.26 per cent of the general population (Eurodrem 2013). As the population ages, the number of individuals with dementia will increase significantly such that by the year 2030, it is projected that 9,883 individuals will have dementia.
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Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. One of the challenges caregivers need to manage is that of the person with dementia wandering off. This wandering off is difficult to assess and the reasons for the behaviour remain unclear. Different individuals’ habits are personalised in some kind of wandering pattern i.e. there is no one rule fits all.
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PEM focuses on Quality of life technology (QoLT) that makes use of devices that a person carries or wears. This involves a mobile solution that accompanies a person with dementia, and a technology-embedded environment in which a person lives, in this case, Saint Vincent de Paul (SVDP), and Mark Weiser Lab at the University of Malta’s Faculty of ICT, Department of Computer Information Systems. By collaborating with professional

Dr Conrad Attard

caregivers in all stages of the study, the researchers improve their algorithms and report tools, to better access real time information about the persons with dementia. They aim to develop solutions that work in hospital environments, with the person and for the person. A major challenge is the lack of technology and resources in hospitals and elderly homes.

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The research team consists of Dr Conrad Attard (lead), Mr Joseph Bonello from the University of Malta’s Department of Computer Information Systems, Faculty of ICT, and Dr Ronald Fiorientino from St Vincent de Paule. Various professionals from St Vincent de Paule and undergraduate and post graduate students from the Faculty of ICT are also involved.
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World Alzheimer’s Month is the international campaign that every September aims to raise awareness and challenge the stigma that surrounds dementia. World Alzheimer’s Month was launched in 2012, while World Alzheimer’s Day is marked on 21 September each year.