A Better Visit
Supporting meaningful interactions between people with advanced dementia and their family members.
by Dr. Sonja Pedell
Focusing on improving communication avenues for people living with advanced dementia, ‘A Better Visit’ was devised by A/Prof Sonja Pedell and members of her Future Self and Design Living Lab. The project, in collaboration with Dementia Australia and Lifeview Residential Care, developed a number of interactive iPad applications to enhance a dementia patient’s ability to share experiences and converse with any visitors they may have, but with a focus on partners and family members.
The co-design of four applications throughout 2017 has allowed improved, proactive interaction for those residing at Lifeview, where Sonja’s team have been visiting fortnightly over the last year.
“We have a strong emphasis on content creation, that the person with dementia has a feeling of impact and on the interaction – not just passive consumption,” says project lead Sonja Pedell.
The apps utilise a range of sensory stimulants, such as sound (with high levels of contrast), music and imagery to facilitate engagement and conversation, creating a shared experience of the resident and visitor dyad. Some also provide a competitive aspect, allowing users to challenge each other in a comfortable environment.
“It’s very subtle, but people like it, and the visitors enjoy it.”
Dementia Australia CEO Ms Maree McCabe sees the applications as an important step towards minimising social isolation among those living with dementia.
"By observing and listening to people living with dementia, the team of Swinburne University of Technology researchers were able to tailor elements such as adjustable speeds, include classic songs to prompt toe-tapping and singalongs, and design clear buttons and simple instructions," says McCabe.
"We are delighted with the positive impact this is having enhancing visits with families and their loved ones living with dementia."
The apps were launched for the iPad in December 2018, available for free download on the Apple Store, while more information is available at the Dementia Australia website.