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A revolutionary £20 million centre based at Imperial College London is set to develop innovative technologies to create dementia-friendly environments and provide insights into how dementia develops.

Set to open in June 2019, the new Care Research & Technology Centre, in partnership with the University of Surrey, joins six national discovery science centres that collectively make up the UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI).

This unique centre will incorporate a range of approaches – from artificial intelligence and robotics to sleep monitoring – to enable people with dementia to live safely, confidently and independently at home.

The centre will be funded by the UK DRI’s three founding partners: the Medical Research Council, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Professor David Sharp, Neurologist at Imperial College London and Head of the new centre, said: “The vision for this centre is to use patient-centred technology to help people affected by dementia to live better and for longer in their own homes.

“Latest figures suggest one in four hospital beds are occupied by people with dementia – and 20 per cent of these admissions are due to preventable causes such as falls, dehydration and infections.

“The new technologies we develop will improve our ability to support people in their homes. They will allow us to intervene at an early stage, to prevent the crises that so often lead to hospital stays, or a move to a care home. What’s more we’ll be able to improve our understanding of dementia onset and progression.”

The £20 million dementia centre will bring together scientists, engineers and doctors to build on existing, early-stage technologies that can be integrated into a person’s home. Use of the new technologies will continuously examine the patient’s physical and mental well-being and if any issues are flagged, that patient’s medical team can be quickly alerted.

Some of the pioneering technology will include: monitoring sensors in the home or on the patient’s body to identify changes in health such as heart rate or body temperature; memory and cognitive function tracking technology to assess whether the patient is having an issue, such as becoming agitated, allowing for early intervention to help them; and robotic devices to help the everyday lives of dementia patients to notify them of safety risks, such as split liquid on the floor.

All of the technology will be evaluated by people living with dementia, alongside their carers, to determine it is both practical and needed.

Professor Payam Barnaghi, Professor of Machine Intelligence at the University of Surrey and Deputy Director of the UK Dementia Research Institute Care Research and Technology Centre, added: “Stays in hospitals and care homes can be very distressing for people with dementia. Not only are they trying to navigate a new physical environment, they are distanced from their friends and families causing further distress.

“The technologies involved in this project will enable people to live independently at home whilst not sacrificing their care. Working with the latest machine learning capabilities means the technology we’re using will be able to get better at spotting warning signs and events that require intervention.

“Doctors will be able to have confidence in their ability to monitor people remotely and to react quickly to any worrying changes. Improving the quality of life of people with dementia is crucial to their and their families overall wellbeing.”

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