The Digital Future of Dementia Care

Australian Rotary Health PhD Scholar, Zhenyu Zhang, has published her work on developing a nonpharmacological digital intervention for treating patients suffering from dementia.

Dementia is the second leading cause of death in Australia, with nearly half a million Australians living with dementia in 2022. The condition is characterised by the impairment of important brain functions like memory and judgement, severely affecting daily life. Dementia symptoms, particularly psychotic symptoms, can cause concern to family members and disrupt daily care routines for health care professionals in nursing homes.

Antipsychotic drugs have been used in managing these symptoms of dementia at the cost of serious side effects, including an increased risk of cognitive decline. Thus, nonpharmacological interventions like general nursing care activities and psychosocial therapy are recommended as primary treatment for patients living with dementia. Such treatment requires extensive knowledge of the patient and their personal experience with their symptoms, which can challenge health professionals in effectively formulating care plans for their patients.

Zhenyu Zhang from the University of Wollongong received the Eric Abrahams PhD Scholarship, co-funded by the Rotary Club of Woy Woy and Australian Rotary Health to develop a digital ontology, or knowledge classification system, to represent dementia and dementia care knowledge in a computer-readable format to ultimately support health professionals.

The recent intervention is a comprehensive knowledge graph named Dementia-Related Psychotic Symptom Nonpharmacological Treatment Ontology (DRPSNPTO). The ontology is not the first Ms. Zhang was involved in developing; she was also involved in building another called, Dementia-Related Agitation Nonpharmacological Treatment Ontology (DRANPTO). Both aim to support health professionals in classifying nonpharmacological dementia treatments.

“This ontology can provide a tool for mapping information from different computer data sources to generate insight about a person with dementia and how to better manage the person’s symptoms,” said Ms. Zhang.

Made up of 610 classes representing the various concepts of nonpharmacological treatment of psychotic symptoms, DRPSNPTO will aid in supporting health professionals in their ongoing care activities for patients living with dementia.

See the recent paper here.


Media contact: Alexander Galati –

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