Dogs, Bakewell tarts and wristbands could fight dementia
A daft as it may at first sound, Bakewell tarts, dogs and wristbands may be the things which best fight off the ongoing threat of Alzheimer's disease in the future.
Dementia has long been regarded as a growing national crisis, with more than 800,000 people currently affected by it in the UK at present and the numbers set to increase significantly past the one million mark over the next 20 years.
Prime minister David Cameron has said several times over the last year that more research needs to go into fighting the cognitive disorder and it seems that a group of technological whizz-kids may have the answers needed.
A completion run by the Design Council and the Department of Health asked people to come up with new ideas which could be implemented into the care of those suffering with Alzheimer's.
As one of the key problems with the slow deterioration of the brain is forgetting basic tasks such as eating, one of the entrants came up with a system which would work as a reminder.
When the smell of fresh cooking wafts from the kitchen it is normal to feel hungry and want to tuck into whatever is being prepared and the new "Ode" systems works by triggering the desire to eat in dementia sufferers who might otherwise neglect feeding themselves.
It works by pumping artificial food smells into a room so that the person's appetite is whetted.
So far the system has been tested using aromas from Bakewell Tarts and spices and the results have been significant.
"So much of appetite is about smell, the sensory anticipation of food. [Ode] uses fragrances to re-awaken appetite," Lizzie Olstrom, who is part of the design team, told BBC News.
Another idea for the care of dementia suffers involves using guide dogs to give the person a routine.
The dogs would be trained to take medication and water to the person at set times of the day so that daily routine becomes the norm. They would also be used to take the person to the bathroom and for waking them up in the morning.
Jeni Lennox, from Dementia Dogs, said: "In dementia, routine disintegrates. Dogs are a creature of habit."
"A dog is a real aid in social interaction. People with dementia can become socially isolated, a dog acts as a bridge to the community."
The final idea to receive praise from Design Council and the Department of Health is called a "Buddiband".
At present this is still in the prototype stage, but it is a hi-tech wristband which can detect if the wearer has fallen and alert people who will be able to help. It can also be used to monitor the activity levels of the dementia sufferer.
"A consequence of an ageing population is a threefold increase in dementia over the past 20 years," David Kester, chief executive of the Design Council, said.
"That means there are many millions of people who need new products and services designed to meet their changing needs. This project demonstrates that if you put the people who are living with dementia, including carers, at the centre of the design process, you end up with rapid and inspiring innovation."
Professor Alastair Burns, the national clinical director for dementia, added that he had no doubt each of the three prototypes looked at will significantly help improve the lives of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease while also making their care provisions more simple for professionals in the health sector.
But as good as these gadgets and ideas may be, private health insurance should also be a consideration for anyone trusted with the care of somebody who is mentally or physically incapacitated.