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Ears, Eyes and Mind: The ‘SENSE-Cog Project’ to improve mental well-being for elderly Europeans with sensory impairment

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SENSE-Cog (Ears, Eyes and Mind: The ‘SENSE-Cog Project’ to improve mental well-being for elderly Europeans with sensory impairment)

Reporting period: 2017-07-01 to 2018-12-31

With population ageing, cognitive, hearing and vision impairment are increasing in prevalence. These conditions frequently co-occur and are linked to negative outcomes including depression, poor cognitive function, social isolation, and reduced quality of life (QoL). SENSE-Cog’s aims are to: (1) understand the inter-relationship of sensory and cognitive impairments; (2) identify novel means of screening/detection for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes; and (3) translate this knowledge into clinical applications for the mental well-being of EU citizens.
Work-Package (WP) 1: Exploration
Using existing data from several large-scale aging cohorts from the EU and the USA, we completed in-depth epidemiological analyses to explore associations of vision/hearing loss with anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, cognitive decline and risk of dementia, including a meta-analysis across datasets.

WP2: Assessment
To address the current lack of reliable assessment tools for people with cognitive and sensory impairments, we undertook a critical review of cognitive assessment tools for people with sensory impairment; a stakeholder needs’ analysis involving people with dementia (PwD), caregivers and health care professionals; development of a protocol to adapt a common cognitive tool (MOCA) and functional tool (DemPal) for people with hearing and vision impairment; and development and validation of an online tool (the E-checker) to detect cognition, hearing and vision problems.

WP3: Intervention
To develop a ‘sensory support intervention’ for evaluation in PwD with hearing and/or vision problems to improve their quality of life we have undertaken an iterative ‘intervention development’ programme and have started a 5-nation trial to evaluate the intervention.

WP4: Valuation
We are studying the economic cost of the interaction among mental health and sensory impairment in existing EU databases. We have completed the preparatory work for ascertaining cost-effectiveness of the sensory support intervention for WP3 via a systematic literature review, and a focus group with dementia experts. We also developed health economics’ data collection tools for the trial and field tested them.

WP5: Involvement
Involving PwD and their care partners is a crucial aspect of conducting meaningful research. To support, inform and guide the SENSE-Cog project and ensure that we are meeting the needs of PwD and their care partners, we have: established a network of ‘Research User Groups’ (RUGs) across the EU; trained the groups in research ;set-up a public website and social media accounts; started evaluation of the effectiveness of our training programme; and hosted successful PPI consultation and dissemination events in several EU sites, including Manchester, Athens, Nice, and Nicosia.
WP1 Findings have been reported in several papers from multiple large-scale EU (& one US) include: (1) dual (hearing and vision combined) sensory loss poses a risk for depression and anxiety; (2) suicidal risk is greater in older people with hearing and/or vision loss; (3) hearing aids and cataract surgery may mitigate downward trajectories of cognitive aging; and (4) retinal changes may be an early biomarker of dementia. We have deepened understanding of the trajectory of cognitive decline in relation to sensory impairment, particularly in the very old population (over 90s).

WP2 We have completed a protocol for adaptation of a widely used cognitive test (the MOCA) for people with sensory impairment, and validation has begun. We completed a critical review of online cognitive assessment tools and are mid-way through validation of our on-line screening tool (the SENSE-Cog E-checker) in five EU countries.

WP3 We developed a new home-based psychosocial intervention to improve quality of life in people with dementia and sensory impairment. Following a field trial, this intervention is being evaluated in a full randomised controlled trial in five countries.

WP4 Econometric analyses from the SHARE meta-dataset identified that cognitive and sensory impairments are associated with higher use of health care services, even after controlling for other major health conditions.

WP5 We held public engagement events with >250 people, spreading the principles of ‘patient and public involvement’ (PPI) in the EU. We are evaluating methods to provide a gold standard for PPI in dementia. We have a publishable protocol training evaluation for our EU-wide Research User Groups (RUGS).

WP 6 The WP6 team has successfully delivered our second Annual General Meeting, which was held in October 2019 in Nicosia, Cyprus, and attended by all consortium partners.

WP 7 We have completed our second Ethics’ Advisory Board review and gained approval for all work from our external ethics lead and submitted a detailed report to the European Commission for an ethics audit. Our report was favourably reviewed and no amendments were requested.
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