How technology helps people living with dementia

Dementia Australia technology

Technology has a great capacity to be a force for good. From smartphones improving daily accessibility and robot vacuums keeping houses clean, to modular controllers bringing entertainment to more people, there are many different applications. Dementia Australia, the national peak body for people living with the condition, recently commemorated its history of using innovative technology to improve lives.

Over the past 12 years, the organisation has released various apps, virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies with the aim of transforming dementia care. To share the impact of its work to date, Dementia Australia produced a digital publication titled ‘Cutting Edge Technology Applications; Improving the experience of dementia for everyone‘. It documents the journey of using technology to raise awareness of the condition, aid those living with dementia, and train carers.

“‘Cutting Edge Technology Applications’ celebrates how the use of technology is changing and improving the support, care practice, knowledge and awareness for all people impacted by dementia,” Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe AM said.

Building healthy brains and empathy

Alongside Dementia Australia’s technological retrospective, the peak body shared that its free BrainTrack app recently surpassed 34,000 downloads. Filled with travel-themed challenges, it helps users learn about brain health and provides information to discuss with GPs. It’s part of a wider strategy to educate people about dementia and address risk factors.

BrainTrack app
BrainTrack gives you brain health insights you can discuss with a GP. Source: Dementia Australia.

Each technology-related tool is the culmination of much research, in addition to government and philanthropical support. Dementia Australia’s first app dates back to 2011 with BrainyApp. Downloaded more than 400,000 times worldwide throughout its lifespan, the app won multiple awards for providing tips on how to maintain good brain and heart health.

Since then, the organisation has launched multiple technological solutions to enhance dementia care. Another app helps carers set up dementia-friendly homes with minimal sensory challenges. Mobile apps are just one of several tools used over the years, however.

For example, Dementia Australia uses VR to provide a firsthand experience simulating what it’s like to live with the condition. Known as EDIE, the VR experience gives family members more understanding of the challenges faced, while professional carers benefit from learning how to best tailor their approach while working.

Dementia Australia - talk ith Ted technology
Talk With Ted is an AI tool used to help adapt communication styles when speaking with people with dementia.

Aside from VR, there’s also Talk With Ted, an AI avatar with dementia. Designed to be a realistic experience of talking with someone with the condition, it’s another way for aged care workers to practise valuable communication skills.

The power of technology

As a training method and a way of better understanding dementia, technology has had a significant impact. Not only have the various apps and technologies directly educated many people about the condition, but it’s also resulted in a strong attitude shift.

“Professional and family carers tell us how profound it is to enter the world of a person with dementia,” McCabe said. “And we know from formal evaluations the power of this style of training compared to traditional ‘chalk and talk’.”

“We believed that if we could simulate the experience of what it’s like to have dementia, we could lead transformation and change people’s attitudes, behaviour and practice, improving the quality of life and care for people living with dementia.”

To read about Dementia Australia’s history of using tech, visit the organisation’s website. You can also access many of Dementia Australia’s apps via its technology page.

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