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SINGAPORE, 21 September 2021 – When is forgetfulness normal and when is it an early warning sign of dementia? This is a common but important question, as seeking medical evaluation in the pre-dementia stage (mild cognitive impairment) may help in treating reversible causes, and possibly delay the progression to dementia. To address this question and encourage the public to monitor their memory health, the National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) and SingHealth have developed the Memory Care mobile application, with tools to help users identify potential warning signs of pre-dementia and manage the condition.
“Diagnosing people when they have pre-dementia is critical, because early medical intervention at this stage can possibly delay the progression to dementia. Unfortunately, there are still no treatments to halt or cure the disease once it has progressed to dementia and as the condition advances it can have a significant impact on the quality of life for both patients and their caregivers,” said Dr Adeline Ng, Senior Consultant, Department of Neurology, NNI and the project lead.
Under the first core feature of the Memory Care application is a checklist for users to monitor their cognition, with questions such as how often they find themselves forgetting names of familiar people or face difficulty performing familiar tasks. Upon completion of the checklist, the user will either be advised that their memory is healthy or can be improved. Both groups will be given a list of recommended articles; those with room for improvement will be advised to visit a doctor for a more detailed check-up. All the results are stored in the application so the user can see differences over time.
The second core feature of the application supports dementia caregivers. It includes a well-being checklist to identify caregiver burnout, adapted from the Zarit Burden Interview, a caregiver self-report measure widely used across the globe. Users can also get tips on how to better care for their dependents and join support group forums to learn from and share experiences with other caregivers.
“All dementia caregivers are at risk of burnout because of the physical, mental and emotional impact of the condition, however those caring for someone with Young Onset Dementia (YOD) are twice as likely to report higher levels of caregiver burden compared to caregivers of older persons with dementia. This is often due to challenging behavioural symptoms that are more common in YOD, such as disinhibited behavior, delusions and apathy,” said Ms Eveline Silva, Principal Psychologist, NNI.
The NNI team worked with SingHealth Group Marketing Communications Department to develop the Memory Care app within the cluster’s existing popular ‘Health Buddy’ mobile application, so the users’ health information could be consolidated in one location. After 9 months of development and testing, the application was launched today in conjunction with World Alzheimer’s Day.
“There are currently around 82,000 people living with dementia in Singapore and as this number continues to rise with the ageing population, SingHealth anticipates that more family members will need to take on the role as caregivers. Health Buddy’s Memory Care app has been developed to help caregivers navigate the practical and emotional challenges they face when looking after their loved ones while also being mindful of their own well-being.” added Ms Kathryn Ng, Deputy Group Chief Communications Officer, SingHealth, whose Marketing Communications team worked on the app development.
Ms Janet Koh Hui Kheng, the main caregiver of her mother who has dementia, has tried the app and gives it a thumbs up. “As a caregiver, I know how important and useful it is to monitor our stress level as we sometimes neglect our well-being when we are dedicated to caring for another person,” said Ms Koh. “The Memory Care application gives us the opportunity to take stock of our strengths, limitations, needs, resources and our ability to contribute to the needs of the care recipient. Allowing our results from the checklist to be saved and tracked over time helps to quickly identify potential caregiving concerns and provides timely advice on when to seek help so we can best care for our loved one.”
The new Memory Care function is located within the Health Buddy app. Download the app here: