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Interactive dementia app encourages 'a better visit'

A new app by Dementia Australia aims to assist people in connecting and communicating when visiting loved ones living with dementia.

'A Better Visit' aims to assist people in connecting and communicating with loved ones living with dementia.
'A Better Visit' aims to assist people in connecting and communicating with loved ones living with dementia.

Launched last month during Social Inclusion Week, A Better Visit is a free iPad app which includes a number of games designed to be interactive, stimulating and fun.

Gamer, television presenter and Dementia Australia Ambassador Stephanie ‘Hex’ Bendixsen, says the games in A Better Visit allow family members of all ages to be more engaged when they visit a loved one living with dementia.

“I cared for my mother Wendy, who died earlier this year from dementia and I wish an app like this had been available then because it can be challenging to come up with different things to do and talk about, especially as symptoms progress,” Ms Bendixsen says.

“Playing noughts and crosses with some classic songs key to your moves or using the window washing game to reveal images of iconic Australian locations can’t help but prompt further conversations or enjoyment of play as a shared experience.

“The games, the sounds and the easy functionality enables people living with dementia to play with you. Anything that helps you bring on a smile is welcome in my book.”

Dementia Australia Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Maree McCabe says family members often don’t know how to communicate and interact with a loved one who has dementia, especially as their symptoms advance.

“It may follow that other family members, children and friends start to withdraw and perhaps become less likely to include the person with dementia in everyday activities or schedule in regular visits,” Ms McCabe says.

“Over time this social isolation can have a profound impact on the person with dementia and the primary carers.”

A recent Inclusion and Isolation report by Dementia Australia found that more than 60 percent of people said they didn’t know what to say to someone with dementia.

“By playing the games in the app carers and other family members will be inspired to engage with the person with dementia through the interaction, images and sounds enhancing their enjoyment and discussions,” Ms McCabe says.

The app was developed with the support of Lifeview Residential Care and the technical knowhow of the team at Swinburne University Future Self and Design Living Lab.

Lifeview Residential Care CEO Madeline Gall says the app is different from other products on the market as it was developed in close consultation with people living with dementia and their carers at Dementia Australia homes across Victoria.

“By observing and listening to our residents living with dementia, researchers were able to tailor certain elements such as adjustable speeds, include classic songs to prompt toe-tapping and singalongs, and design clear buttons and uncomplicated instructions,” Ms Gall says.

“We are really pleased our residents living with dementia were able to make a contribution to the design of the app which will bring such joy to families for many years to come.”

Ms Gall says Lifeview Residential staff would often see family members struggle to interact and maintain conversation with relatives living with dementia.

“Through the stimulation and interaction via A Better Visit, we would hear more laughter and chatting,” she says.

“What’s more, we observed after the game play, the resident living with dementia’s mood would be more upbeat and often that positive mood would continue on, even after the families had gone home.”

A Better Visit is available for iPad only and can be downloaded for free at the App Store.

Further information about the app can be found here.



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