The Computer Interactive Reminiscence and Conversation Aid (CIRCA) system helps people with dementia by presenting carefully selected audio and video to "unlock" memories.
Alzheimer's Reading Room
Background - dementia and human conversation
Dementia, which involves the impairment of short-term (working) memory in older people, is a very serious problem for people who develop it and for their family and carers. Short-term memory plays a very important role in human communication. It helps to maintain the thread of a conversation, it ensures that topics are fully discussed, and it allows new topics to be introduced at appropriate times.
Impaired short-term memory can therefore have severe impact on a person's conversations, resulting in topics being repeatedly introduced, and giving the appearance that the person is not listening. This can be very disturbing and frustrating for the conversation partner, and can in turn have a negative effect on the person as they become aware of their partner's negative emotions but do not understand how they have come about.
CIRCA project achievements
Finding ways to promote communication for elderly people with dementia is vitally important. Reminiscence sessions take advantage of the enjoyment that older people, both with and without dementia, have in relating well-rehearsed and well remembered previous experiences or events of personal and emotional significance.
Of particular interest is the fact that in dementia, long-term memory is often relatively well preserved even though short-term memory is impaired. This project has produced an innovatively designed reminiscence experience based on interactive multimedia.
The CIRCA system provides the user with a hypermedia structure for their communication and thereby creates a livelier and more engaging form of joint reminiscence activity than is possible with a paper scrapbook.
Evaluation of the system with people with dementia and their carers has shown that, compared to traditional reminscence methods, CIRCA helps to create a more successful conversation, facilitating increased communication from the person with dementia, and helping them to take control of the interaction.
Commercial partners are currently being sought to market CIRCA.
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Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room