Midlife approaches to reduce dementia risk

Potentially up to a third of dementia cases may be attributable to potentially modifiable lifestyle risk factors.

reduce risk
Image source: publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk

This is the fourth edition of PHE’s Health Matters, a resource for public health professionals, which brings together important facts, figures and evidence of effective interventions to tackle major public health problems.

This edition focuses on midlife approaches to reduce the risk of developing dementia, and the importance of moving away from thinking of dementia as simply an inevitable part of ageing.

Related Guidance: Health matters: midlife approaches to reduce dementia risk

Virtual Reality Rehabilitation Pilot for Salford Residents with Dementia (Trustech / BASIC / CAREN)

Dementia and Elderly Care News


A virtual reality system permits people with mild to moderate dementia to participate in engaging life-sized interactive games and activities, with a view to improving their levels of physical activity, independence and confidence. The pilot project, operated by the local brain injury charity “Basic”, is called “Virtual Adventures” and has been funded by NHS Salford CCG.

Full Text Link


The virtual reality for Salford residents living with dementia. Manchester: TRUSTECH, February 23rd 2016.

See also:

Full Text Link


The CAREN (Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment). Salford: BASIC Brain and Spinal Injury Centre, 2016.

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Evaluation of ‘Dementia Friends’ programme for undergraduate nursing students: Innovative practice

Mitchell, G. & McCreevy, J. Dementia. Published online: March 14 2016

Image source: Number 10

The ‘dementia friends’ programme was launched by the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK two years ago with the purpose of educating members of the public about the things they can do which can enhance the lives of people living with dementia. The aim of this project was to deliver a two-hour ‘Dementia Friendly Community Workshop’ written by the Alzheimer’s Society, to an entire cohort of first-year undergraduate nursing students in one Higher Education Institutions in Northern Ireland.

Following delivery of the programme, students were asked to complete a short questionnaire on their knowledge and confidence in relation to dementia care before and after the Dementia Friendly Community programme. A total of 322 undergraduate first-year nursing students took part in the Dementia Friendly Community programme. Of these, 304 returned questionnaires; 31.25% of students stated their perceived improvement in dementia knowledge was ‘good’ while 49.01% stated their perceived improvement in dementia knowledge was ‘very good’ and 13.49% stated their perceived improvement in dementia knowledge was ‘excellent’. In relation to confidence in engaging with people with dementia, 31.91% stated ‘good’ improvement, 40.79% stated ‘very good’ improvement and 11.84% stated ‘excellent’ improvement.

The Dementia Friendly Community programme was positively reviewed by the undergraduate students as it enhanced knowledge and confidence in relation to care of someone living with dementia.

Read the full abstract here

Different kinds of physical activity shown to increase brain volume

Alzheimer’s Society


A new study, from UCLA Medical Centre and University of Pittsburgh, suggests that a variety of physical activities, from walking, to gardening and dancing, can increase brain volume.

The research was published today (Friday 11 March) in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The researchers studied 876 patients aged on average 78, across four research sites in the United States. Participants were asked questions about their physical activity habits and had MRI scans of their brains, which were analysed to measure the volumes of brain structures including parts associated with memory and Alzheimer’s disease. The relationship between physical activities, from gardening and dancing to riding an exercise bike at the gym, were compared to the brain’s volume.

The results of the analysis suggested that increasing physical activity was associated with increases in the volume of certain parts of the brain.

Read the original research article here

Read the commentary here

Person-centred dementia care

Image source: http://www.tandfonline.com/

In the latest editorial of Aging & Mental Health,  Myrra Vernooij-Dassen & Esme Moniz-Cook argue that person-centred care should not only be directed at compensating for what people with dementia cannot do, but also at facilitating their interests, pleasure and use of their capacities.


Full reference :Myrra Vernooij-Dassen & Esme Moniz-Cook (2016): Personcentred dementia care: moving beyond caregiving, Aging & Mental HealthDOI: 10.1080/13607863.2016.1154017

Impact of young onset dementia on informal caregivers compared with late onset dementia

By Jo Moriaty for the Social Care Elf Blog. Published: 3rd March 2016

We know a lot about the long term consequences for family carers of supporting someone with dementia.  Much of this research is cross-sectional, meaning that we only have a snapshot of how carers are managing.  However, results from studies in which participants have been followed up over time (for example, Mahoney et al., 2005, Schulz et al., 2010) indicate that there is a ‘wear and tear’ effect whereby carers experience greater stress as time goes on and as the person for whom they care needs more support.  This can lead to them finding it more difficult to cope with some aspects of caring than they did previously.

For pragmatic and methodological reasons, most published research has concentrated on carers looking after someone whose dementia has developed after the age of 65.  We know much less about the challenges faced by those supporting a person whose dementia developed under the age of 65 (young onset dementia).  Research such as this, which has both a longitudinal design and includes carers of people with dementia of all ages is long overdue.

Original research article:

Millenaar, J. K., de Vugt, M. E., Bakker, C., van Vliet, D., Pijnenburg, Y. A. L., Koopmans, R. T. C. M. & Verhey, F. R. J. (2015) The impact of young onset dementia on informal caregivers compared with late onset dementia: results from the NeedYD Study. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Device to combat memory loss from brain injury, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease created

ScienceDaily. Published online 2nd March 2016.

B0003260 Composite artwork - 8 images of the brain
Image source: Heidi Cartwright – Wellcome Images

UT Southwestern Medical Center has joined a consortium of seven leading universities to develop new technologies to improve memory in people with traumatic brain injury, mild cognitive impairment, epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Specifically, UT Southwestern is part of a study with the goal of developing an implantable neural monitoring and stimulation system by the end of 2018 that would treat memory loss.

Researchers plan to use safe levels of electrical stimulation to test new ways of improving brain function and memory in neurosurgery patients who already receive brain stimulation as part of their therapy for epilepsy. Their goal is to determine whether brain stimulation delivered when these individuals play memory games will improve their memory ability.

Read the full story here

Health professionals generally have more restrictive attitudes towards assisted dying in dementia than the public

Davies, N. Evidence Based Nursing 2016;19:28

Commentary on: 

This is the first review that has explored attitudes towards assisted dying specifically in relation to dementia. This narrow overview of studies comes at a point at which assisted dying has received heightened media attention in recent years.

The review demonstrates a division of opinion across different populations as well as severity of dementia. Support in particular from professionals who would need to perform assisted dying is greater in mild dementia as this is when capacity is less of an issue. However, Bolt et al demonstrated that a small number of Dutch physicians find it conceivable they would assist death with a person with dementia.

The study suggests healthcare professionals should be mindful of the more supportive views of people with dementia and carers towards assisted dying when discussing end-of-life care options. However, extreme caution must be taken. As demonstrated in this study, not all will have such a supportive view and opinions will vary. As shown in previous reviews of attitudes towards end-of-life care in dementia, carers’ views in particular may change and span a spectrum of beliefs. Caution would also need to be taken of any other comorbid psychological disorders such as depression, which may compound an individual’s desire for assisted dying.

The authors rightly acknowledge that there are several limitations with the studies included in this review, including poor design of survey methodologies leading to biased responses and a lack of standardised measures. They highlight the need for research to explore the explanations behind the attitudes reported.

This information is important in informing on-going debate internationally about the role of assisted dying in dementia and the attitudes of those most affected about this sensitive topic of debate.

Implications for practice and research

▪ Different levels of advocating for assisted dying between people with dementia and health professionals may mean professionals need more confidence, support and awareness to have these conversations.

▪ Further qualitative research is needed to explore in more detail the views carers and people with dementia have about assisted dying.

Read the full commentary here

What are the barriers to care integration for those at the advanced stages of dementia living in care homes in the UK?

Kupeli, N. et al. Dementia. Published online: March 1st 2016,

B0003937 Illustration depicting memory
Image source: Matthew Herring – Wellcome Images

People with advanced dementia are frequently bed-bound, doubly incontinent and able to speak only a few words. Many reside in care homes and may often have complex needs requiring efficient and timely response by knowledgeable and compassionate staff.

The aim of this study is to improve our understanding of health care professionals’ attitudes and knowledge of the barriers to integrated care for people with advanced dementia. In-depth, interactive interviews were conducted with 14 health care professionals including commissioners, care home managers, nurses and health care assistants in the UK.

Barriers to care for people with advanced dementia are influenced by governmental and societal factors which contribute to challenging environments in care homes, poor morale amongst care staff and a fragmentation of health and social care at the end of life. Quality of care for people with dementia as they approach death may be improved by developing collaborative networks to foster improved relationships between health and social care services.

Read the abstract here

Full document available here