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UCL and HKU working to deliver dementia therapy virtually

22 May 2020

UCL and HKU are collaborating to deliver Cognitive Stimulation Therapy to people with dementia over Zoom during COVID-19

elderly couple accessing virtual therapy for dementia

People with dementia and their families are one of the groups hit hardest by the Covid-19 crisis. To keep people with dementia engaged and supported during lockdown, Professor Aimee Spector (UCL Department of Clinical, Educational & Heath Psychology) has been working closely with colleagues at Hong Kong University (HKU) to test the virtual delivery of Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) to patients in their homes.

CST was developed at UCL by Professor Spector and is the main and often only therapy offered to people with dementia by the NHS. It involves group therapy sessions, typically run twice weekly, aimed at actively stimulating patients to maintain cognition, while providing an optimal learning environment and social benefits. However, since the lockdown began in the UK, CST services have not been able to run.

Many people with dementia have been left with limited support and do not understand what is happening or why there is a need to social distance. The vast majority of people with dementia, and the family members who look after them, are over the age of 65, often with co-morbid health problems. This means they are likely to be among the last to resume social contact and get the health and social support they need.

In response to the current clinical service gap and need to keep people with dementia engaged whilst remaining safe at home, Professor Spector and Assistant Professor Gloria Wong (HKU Department of Social Work and Social Administration) have been working to launch virtual CST groups through Zoom. Assistant Professor Wong has been leading the FaceCog study in Hong Kong, a two-year funded programme testing the feasibility of delivering CST virtually; UCL is looking to rapidly begin a partner project to deliver FaceCog here in the UK.

This is the latest collaboration in the partnership between UCL and HKU who are leading innovations in non-pharmacological interventions for dementia, with initial funding from UCL Grand Challenges. While awaiting the development of new drugs that may eventually help the growing number of people affected by dementia, clinical and social sciences researchers at UCL and HKU, as well as Peking University (PKU) in Beijing, have been using CST to tackle the issue.

In the video below, UCL’s Professor Aimee Spector and HKU’s Assistant Professor Gloria Wong explain how they have been working together to develop CST to help maintain cognition and wellbeing in people with dementia.

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utJxltdF1Ho&feature=youtu.be

Their collaboration with colleagues at PKU, with funding from the UCL-PKU Strategic Partner Fund, will expand the research further, developing an implementation plan for Cognitive Stimulation Therapy in China modelled on successful work in Brazil, India and Tanzania.

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