University of Sussex Media Release.
. Sussex Gives Boost to Memory - and Morale - of Alzheimer’s Patients

29 July 1999
For immediate release

Researchers at Sussex University have plugged a vital gap in the management of dementia with an innovative, simple memory pack. Their Pocket Book of Memories is designed for dementia patients who have lost a sense of their personal identity. A pocket-sized filofax, it contains essential information about a patient's unique history and their personal memories which any responsible carer would want to know.

Drs Jennifer Rusted and Linda Shepperd, who have been working with Alzheimer's patients for many years, developed the pack because they saw the need for a memory trigger which would stimulate conversation and arouse emotions. Crucially, they also saw that such an aid would need to be in an accessible form. "There's really nothing like this around, this is an absolute first," says Dr Rusted, "We know, we've looked. There are biographies, but they are written as lengthy essays, which no-one has time to read - and they are usually locked away as part of the patient's clinical records, they aren't for the patient to see at all. Even the carer has to make an effort to go and see them."

The Pocket Book of Memories is so special because it is the first time a memory-aid has been developed for both patients and carers. It's very structured, providing space for snippets of information about first loves, best ever holidays, favourite hobbies, wedding day memories and so on, in a format which doesn't swamp the reader with details. Every page is a conversation starter, giving a carer in a day centre, with no knowledge of their patient's past, a vital starting point. Even more importantly, it brings home the fact that that every patient is an individual. As Dr Shepperd points out, "If you know someone got a medal for their courage in WWII, you’re going to treat them a bit differently, perhaps with a bit more respect than you would otherwise feel for the crotchety old person in front of you who you know nothing about."

The pack boosts a patient's self esteem in more ways than one. It belongs to them, giving them control over other people's access to their memories. It also triggers lots of positive memories, about people they have loved and achievements they have made. According to Dr Rusted, this boost is the key to the pack’s success: "Depression is a huge problem for people with dementia. Many people appear to be worse than they are because they are depressed. Anything that allows themselves and others to see them as a person can delay the sense of loss which dementia brings, and which causes that depression."

Pocket Book of Memories will be out on 29th July, and is available either from mail order from Hawker Publications, or from any bookshop, at £9.99.

For further information please contact Sally Hall, Information Office, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678888, Fax 01273 678335, email s.l.hall@sussex.ac.uk, Dr Jennifer Rusted, School of Biological Sciences, Sussex University, Tel. 01273 678325/678058, Linda Sheppard, School of Biological Sciences, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678435/678058

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