Pioneering smart technology study wins backing of those affected by dementia

Nearly 250 people from across Surrey and NE Hants have so far come forward to take part in a new study

Nearly 250 people from across Surrey and North East Hampshire have so far come forward to take part in a ground-breaking, new study that uses smart technology to support people with dementia who live at home.

The £5.2 million study, called TIHM for dementia, is being launched by mental health trust, Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and is funded by the Department of Health. The aim of the study is to help clinicians remotely monitor the health of people with dementia so that they can step in quickly to support someone if they become unwell.

People who have so far signed up to TIHM for dementia have welcomed the study, saying they believe it represents a significant, new approach to supporting people with dementia and carers.

The study is based on the use of small technological devices that are placed around the home or worn that are able to monitor a person’s health in real time 24/7. These devices can, for example, detect if someone has left the house, had a fall, used the bathroom more than usual, had a restless night or is not following normal patterns of behaviour for eating or drinking. If the technology identifies a problem, an alert is issued that is then followed up by a clinician.

Beryl Parker, a carer from Aldershot, said: “I think the study is a wonderful idea. I am so pleased that something positive is happening to support people with this condition. There is no cure for dementia, there are only delaying tactics, and we need to have something that offers us hope to cope with the day to day challenges of a condition that affects so many people.

“I think for people taking part, this study could help to provide them with some peace of mind.”

Another carer from Farnham, Ray Ledge, who looks after his wife Carol, said: “The greatest thing about this study is that it could develop into something very positive for the future and that it will also give the medical community a greater insight into the condition.

“I can see the study will help to take some of the pressure off of the carer and I think that both my wife and I could benefit from this.  Ray’s wife Carol, said: “I think this approach could definitely help me to lead a more independent life for longer.”

To take part in TIHM for dementia, a person must live in Surrey or NE Hampshire and have a partner, relative, friend or a paid carer who is also willing to be involved. Surrey and Borders Partnership is working closely with the Alzheimer’s Society to recruit participants and is looking for a further 550 ‘couples’ – that is a person with dementia and someone who cares for them - to get involved.

People recruited onto the study will start to receive the technology early in the New Year. On average, the study will be rolled out to 50 homes a month during 2017. The study is being run on a randomised control basis so half of those consented onto the study will receive the technology. The remaining half will not receive the devices but will form the control group. This will help the study to better assess the difference the technology is making to people’s lives.

Most of the devices that will be installed in people’s homes are in the background but some actively interact with a person to find out how they are feeling and remind them to take their medication.

Clinicians at Surrey and Borders Partnership will monitor the real time data that is collected by the devices and respond to any alerts.  Carers can opt to have an app that will also alert them to any problems.  

Dr Helen Rostill, Director of Innovation and Development at Surrey and Borders Partnership who is leading the study, said: “We are delighted with the response we have had so far to the study. It is clear people are desperate for a new approach to help support them manage this condition and can already see how this study could benefit them.”

TIHM for dementia is one of seven NHS England Innovation Test Beds and one of only two specifically looking at how the internet of things can be used to help the NHS support people facing some of the most complex health issues.