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World Alzheimer’s Day: MedUni Vienna is developing technical solutions to help dementia patients

MEMENTO project started in May
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(Vienna, 21 September 2017) The clinical syndrome known as dementia covers a group of clinical pictures involving the impairment of cognitive functions such as memory, speech, orientation, comprehension and judgement. This goes hand-in-hand with difficulties in everyday life, such as in household organisation, handling financial matters or keeping medical appointments. The symptoms are often accompanied by depressed mood and a change in social behaviour and motivation. Since May 2017, MedUni Vienna has been participating in the European MEMENTO project, dedicated to the development of technical solutions to help sufferers and their relatives cope with forgetfulness on a day-to-day basis.

MEMENTO (Memory and Moments collected) is a joint project being conducted by eight centres in Austria, Italy and Spain. "The MEMENTO programme should help to remind patients with mild dementia of everyday events, situations and places and help them to retain new information," explains Elisabeth Stögmann of MedUni Vienna’s Department of Neurology and Head of the dementia clinic at MedUni Vienna/Vienna General Hospital, on the occasion of World Alzheimer's Day on 21 September. "The aim is to make people with dementia feel safe and to create a familiar environment for them."

"MEMENTO will consist of three components, which can be used to collect personal images, videos and notes. This data will then undergo smart processing in a Cloud and serve as aids to memory. Technical implementation will be supported by potential users right from the start," says Sten Hanke from the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH.

130,000 Austrians affected
Dementia predominantly occurs in older people and, in view of the current demographic trend, has become a major issue for society and health policy.  Currently around 130,000 people in Austria are suffering from some form of dementia and experts estimate that this number will double by 2050. Accounting for around 60 – 80% of cases, Alzheimer's disease is by far the most common form of dementia.

Says Stögmann: "Most people with dementia can recall memories from their early lives much more readily than things that have happened more recently. It is possible for them to remember a large number of facts or experiences but be very forgetful about things in the present – such as recent events or what they have just been talking about. Consequently, dementia sufferers often have difficulty in remembering what happened a few minutes or hours ago but can clearly remember things that happened when they were much younger."

The MEMENTO team is made up of interdisciplinary experts from different sectors: researchers from the medical sector (MedUni Vienna, University Hospital in Perugia and a nursing home in Spain) and from technical research (AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH) and design specialists (BKM Design Studio) are working together to create a solution that is easy to use and meets the needs of the target group. Industrial partners (VirtualWare, WeTouch, Integris and Citard Services) in the consortium are focusing on marketing the solution that is developed.

The project is being funded by the Active and Assisted Living (AAL) programme, which supports projects that develop information and communication technology to improve the quality of life of elderly people. National funding comes from the FFG benefit programme. The Active and Assisted Living (AAL) programme is funding the development and testing of the solution in three European countries over the next 3 years to the tune of 2 million euros.