The new, free, iPad app by Dementia Australia is designed to "assist families and loved ones in connecting and communicating when visiting a family member living with dementia", and is designed to be interactive, stimulating and fun.
Dementia Australia's Ambassador is well-known gamer and television presenter, Stephanie ‘Hex’ Bendixsen who explained that through the games in A Better Visit family members of all ages will be empowered to be more engaged when they visit a loved one living with dementia.
Bendixen said: “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.
“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,” Bendixen added.
Dementia Australia chief executive Maree McCabe said family members tell us that often they simply don’t know how to communicate and interact with a loved one who has dementia especially as their dementia advances.
“And 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,” McCabe continued.
“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 people weren’t sure how to talk to someone with dementia. More than 60% 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.”
The development of A Better Visit was sponsored by Lifeview Residential Care which included access to residents for consultation in the development of the app.
Lifeview Residential Care chief executive Madeline Gall said the app is different from other products in the market as it was developed in close consultation with people living with dementia and their carers at our homes in Victoria.
“By observing and listening to our residents living with dementia, a team of Swinburne University researchers supported by Dementia Australia, 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,” Gall said.
“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.
“Our staff observe families visiting and sitting next to their loved one struggling to maintain conversation. Through the stimulation and interaction A Better Visit prompts we would hear more laughter and chatting.
“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,” Gall concluded.
We're told that Bendixsen has volunteered to join Dementia Australia’s Ambassador Program to share her experience of caring for her mother to raise awareness about dementia and to help others to know they are not alone.
McCabe added: “I am delighted to announce Stephanie as a Dementia Australia Ambassador. Stephanie joins our growing list of respected, high profile Australians who are motivated by the impact of dementia in their own lives, to help others and raise much needed awareness in the community about dementia and about our services."
A Better Visit is available for iPad only and can be downloaded free of charge at the App Store.
The app is "the latest addition to a range of innovative digital projects developed by Dementia Australia to support people living with dementia and their carers and families.
"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.
"The app was released during Social Inclusion Week 2018, a national awareness week that aims to help all Australians feel included and valued, giving everyone the opportunity to participate fully in society".
Further information about the app can found here.
Here is the video for A Better Visit: