THE aroma of Coronation chicken, fish and chips, and Bakewell tart could be pumped into the rooms of dementia sufferers to help their appetites, as part of a plan to make their lives easier.
People with dementia often forget to eat and drink regularly, which can increase their delirium and lead to rapid weight loss.
Ben Davies, managing director of Rodd, a Hampshire-based design agency, said sending out brief bursts of strong aromas from the ‘Ode’ plug-in device at mealtimes stimulated people’s appetites and “reconnected” them to food.
“In one case a woman who had dropped to 40kg (6st 4lb) gained 5kg (11lb), which was unprecedented,” he said.
The idea is one of five shortlisted for further development in a competition run by the Design Council and the UK Department of Health, to help make the lives of hundreds of thousands of people with dementia easier and more enjoyable.
Among the others are specially trained ‘dementia dogs’ to assist with their day-to-day needs, the brainchild of students at Glasgow School of Art, and a Facebook-style programme that enables the whole family to keep tabs on an individual to better share the burden of care.
Luke McKinney drew a dog in a Superman cape – half as a joke – during an ideas session, only for fellow student Flora Arbuthnott to recall how attached her grandfather had been to his dog when he had dementia.
“He always loved seeing the dog when he went into a care home,” she said.
Jeni Lennox, their tutor, said studies showed dementia sufferers often had trouble recalling family members – but never pets.
She said: “Specially trained assistance dogs will help support their daily routines – waking them up, reminding them to eat and drink and even bringing them their medicine in ‘doggy bags’.”
Only sufferers with a live-in carer like a spouse would be eligible, as someone must still look after the dog. She said having such a dog would help take the pressure off carers, who often “can’t get a moment to themselves”.
Matt Harrison, a design consultant, came up with ‘Grouple’ – short for ‘a group of people’. It is a dedicated website enabling family and friends to keep each other informed with updates such as when they have seen a loved-one, routine medical visits and emergencies.
Mr Harrison said: “There’s almost always a primary care who take the lion’s share of responsibility for someone with dementia. The idea of Grouple is that it’s much better if a whole family can assist.”
Paul Burstow, the Care Services Minister, said the winning ideas “have the potential to make a big difference for people with dementia and their families”.