The West Australian

Memory boost slows dementia

People with dementia who tested a method of boosting their memory for Alzheimer's Australia WA have reported benefits such as renewed interest in other languages, talking more and increased self-esteem.

Participants also had improvements in recall, mood and more confidence in their abilities.

The Ashby Memory Method, which uses techniques adapted from brain injury neuro-rehabilitation, is a drug-free, paper-based program developed specifically for people with mild to moderate dementia.

It combines many techniques - including word exercises and visual stimulation with personalised activities based on the specific interests of participants - to stimulate all five senses.

A total of 21 people with dementia from metropolitan and regional WA undertook the personalised activities for one hour twice a week facilitated by support workers.

Alzheimer's Australia WA chief executive Frank Schaper said the results from the trial were overwhelmingly positive.

Some 70 per cent of participants felt that the program had helped to improve their quality of life.

Alzheimer's Australia WA has partnered with the Alzheimer's Innovation Institute in Canada to make the program available in Australia.

John Ashby, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Innovation Institute, explained that the method's success was based on the brain's ability to adapt through cognitive training.

"Dementia can be viewed as a slow-forming brain injury and, while therapeutic drugs can halt the progression of the disease, the effects only last for about a year before the person's decline continues," Mr Ashby said.

"With this program, we could see actual improvements in the quality of life of people with dementia and a slowing of the person's decline for a longer period."

Described by Access Economics as a nationwide epidemic, dementia is now the third leading cause of death in Australia. It is not a normal part of ageing and can affect people in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

Mr Schaper said the program reduced both caregiver stress and the cost of care. In an Alzheimer's Innovation Institute-sponsored trial, the program extended the time care could be provided at home by more than two years.

"It may help participants remain living at home longer to enjoy familiar surroundings as well as important social, community, and family resources," Mr Schaper said.

For more information about the Ashby Memory Method phone the Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500.