Symptoms of memory loss, such as those indicative of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), can serve as precursors to more insidious, progressive forms of dementia, particularly Alzheimer's disease (AD). Memory loss is a serious and unsettling problem for those who experience it as well as for caregivers and family members. Memory plays an important role in interpersonal communication. When an individual begins to experience cognitive and memory loss there may be various behavioral consequences. They may experience changes in personality, a lesser sense of self, or a loss of independence. This can lead to situations that are challenging to professional caregivers and family. Examples of these are high levels of depression, loss of self- esteem, grief, fear, and frustration, all of whih have a significant impact on the well-being of the individual and their relationships with others. Reminiscence interventions are effective in producing positive outcomes including improvements in the ability to communicate as well as in mood, well-being, quality of life, social interaction, cognition particularly autobiographical memory) and staff knowledge of information regarding the person with memory loss. Reminiscence interventions also hold some potential to reduce caregiver strain. In this project we are developing a novel cognitive approach to enhance reminiscing activities in persons with memory loss. In addition, our approach is designed to intentionally increase professional/family caregiver communication/interaction with individuals with memory loss and decrease caregiver and family stress. The proposed Memory Matters (MM) mobile aid goes beyond typical psychosocial interventions in memory care that are built on a "look/listen/discuss" paradigm. Instead, MM engages the person with memory loss in interactive activities designed to tap their long-term memories in a novel ways using a "think/do/reflect" paradigm. MM is thus a more cognitively focused and user-engaged approach. This Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project will enhance an existing prototype of Memory Matters to support the use of multimedia historical and personal material (Specific Aim 1). The user interface will be tailored to be consistent with the cognitive, perceptual, and psychomotor capabilities of older adults with memory problems. A feasibility study (Specific Aim 2) will then be conducted on 15 dyads of persons with memory loss and their family members as well as 15 care staff in a residential care setting. The qualitative and quantitative data collected will be used to inform the redesign of the MM approach prior to a large-scale evaluation of efficacy and impact planned for a phase II SBIR project.
Memory loss is a significant problem for a growing number of Americans. An estimated 5.2 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer's disease in 2013. This includes an estimated 5 million people age 65 and older. Longer life spans and aging baby boomers will cause this number to more than double in the next 25 years. People with memory loss face considerable challenges including a decrease in their ability to communicate along with increased emotional distress. Caregivers and family also experience the negative impact of the relative's inability to communicate and as a result also experience stress. The stress associated with care provision often negatively influences family members'ability to provide care and support. For people with AD and other dementias, aggregate payments for health care, long-term care and hospice are projected to increase from $183 billion in 2011 to $1.1 trillion in 2050 (in 2011 dollars).