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Living with dementia: Projects

Challenge Demcare

Challenge Demcare: Dementia Care for behaviours that challenge is funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR). The research uses an interactive computer system for mental health workers to use to help family carers and staff in care homes provide a better quality of life for people with dementia. This will also reduce stress in the carers themselves. Professor Bob Woods is a grant holder for this project.

Dementia can bring behaviour that families and staff find difficult to understand and cope with. These are described by medical experts as behavioural and psychological symptoms in dementia (BPSD). When family and staff have difficulty in managing BPSD, psychologist experts describe these as `challenging behaviour` or ‘behaviours that challenge’, since the way problems are perceived and thus managed, can contribute to subsequent quality of life of the person and the family. BPSD, particularly apathy, agitation and aggression are also seen by psychologists as an expression of distress, by the person with dementia. BPSD is often treated with drugs which are known to have harmful side effects and often do not work. Guidelines suggest that psychological treatments should be used first, with drugs used as a last resort. However drugs are commonly the first port of call in both primary and specialist health services. This may be due to inadequate numbers of clinical psychologists available to provide psychological therapy - in this case the treatment of choice is 'functional analysis', i.e. the analysis of behaviour in terms of the function which that behaviour serves for the person. This requires training akin to 'detective work' to elucidate the cause of behaviour.

This programme of research aims to examine whether providing family and staff carers with training and support in behaviour management for dementia symptoms, enables them to improve their coping strategies, minimise behavioural symptoms and thus enhance well being in older people with dementia and their carers. Web-based training and decision support systems will be developed: a) to assist care home staff to access knowledge (functional analysis) and behaviour management support for a range of challenging behaviours; and b) to assist community practitioners to support family caregivers at home. These systems will include the complexity of bio-medical, social and environmental factors that need to be taken into account in behaviour management of dementia.

To find out more, please visit the Challenge DemCare website:


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