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Computer could help take the caring strain

An interactive computer programme for sufferers of dementia? It may sound far-fetched but Susan Greenfield, the well-known neuroscientist and expert in Alzheimer's, is developing one.

It is, she admits, a commercial venture, and one she is reluctant to talk about in detail. But Baroness Greenfield hopes an idea that struck her as so obvious will benefit not only victims but also long-suffering carers.

"It can be very wearing for them to have people asking every two minutes what day it is," she said.

"As for the programme, the best thing that can happen is that it slows down the progress of dementia. The next best thing is that at least people will enjoy it."

The plan is for software to be developed and available within two years.

"It will be aimed at people in the early stages of dementia," said Baroness Greenfield.

"We are exploring touch-screen technology as many older people have problems learning how to use a mouse."

The West Kent branch of the Alzheimer's Society has been running a computer project as part of its Living with Dementia work. This aims to help sufferers use IT equipment and find new ways of communicating, pursuing interests and having fun.

It has been a pilot for use of computer technology by dementia sufferers nationally. Jim Soulsby, of Niace, said: "Dementia is complex and different types of the disease are treated differently. But there could be advantages in this sort of thing."

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