The combined issue of dementia and age-related hearing and vision problems is to be tackled by a consortium headed by The University of Manchester.
The SENSE-Cog project involves, among others, Cécile Delcourt (LEHA – team leader in the BPH Research Center) as the leader of the Bordeaux campus project, the EUCLID platform as the leader of the implementation of the randomized trial and the CHU of Bordeaux (hospital) as an active participant in clinical studies.
The five year SENSE-Cog project has been funded with €6.5m from the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research programme to investigate cognitive, visual and hearing impairments and seek new ways of addressing it, in order to improve quality of life and disability of the elderly and make the most of health budgets across Europe.
Dr Iracema Leroi, an academic psychiatrist from The University of Manchester said: “In combination, these problems have a much greater effect than each one individually. Imagine if you have dementia which affects your memory or interferes with your recognition of familiar people. When you add visual impairment to that, you can understand why those affected may experience even greater cognitive difficulty or even experience altered behaviour such as agitation or hallucinations. The burden on carers – often family members – is also increased as they are required to do much more on a daily basis and we see a greater number of these suffering from burn-out.”
The project seeks to better understand the relationships of cognitive impairment with sensory impairments, and develop means of better diagnosing and caring for people affected by both cognitive and sensory impairments. The project will also scope out the scale of the problem so that authorities across the continent can allocate resources. It is currently estimated that mental ill health costs the EU €277 billion a year.
Firstly, the relationships of cognitive impairment and mental health with visual and hearing impairments will be studied in 5 European epidemiological studies.
Secondly, researchers will develop online tests, guides and training manuals in a variety of languages to help medical professionals diagnose and treat the combined problems more effectively.
Thirdly, the programme will also trial an intervention of at-home support for people with cognitive impairment who experience visual and/or hearing impairment at the same time. This will be supported by specialist sensory therapists and will focus around pragmatic solutions to support both the affected person and their carer.
Dr Piers Dawes, a University of Manchester audiologist and co-lead of the SENSE-Cog project said: “Millions of people in the UK and wider EU are affected by this combination of problems and it’s only going to get more prevalent as the population ages. That’s why we have to understand the scale of the problem and then equip the public, carers and health care workers with the tools they need to deal with it. If we could reduce disability due to hearing and vision impairment, there is huge potential to improve mental well-being and even delay the deterioration of dementia.”