This New Australian Augmented Reality App Helps Dementia Sufferers

Charity Alzheimer's Australia Vic has launched a new app today,The Dementia-Friendly Home. Built on Unreal Engine (which is mostly used in videogames), the tablet app provides carers with ideas to make their home more accessible for people living with dementia.

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Maree McCabe CEO Alzheimer’s Australia Vic said most people are not aware that people with dementia may experience spatial and visual challenges as well as the more commonly understood memory issues.

"Changes in the brain can impact on day to day functions and potentially confuse people living with dementia. Identifying ways the home and environment can be modified to ameliorate any challenges will make a difference to the person living with dementia," Ms McCabe said.

With 70 per cent of people with dementia living in the community, the app enables the home to be made more dementia-friendly. This can allow the person to stay in their own home, enjoy their regular lifestyle activities and remain engaged with their community for longer.

"This app aims to enable people living with dementia to maintain their independence and continue living at home. It may also help build on their self-esteem, which can have a profound impact on the quality of life for a person living with dementia, as well as families and carers," Ms McCabe said.

Based on ten Dementia Enabling Environment Principles, The Dementia-Friendly Home uses augmented reality to recommend practical changes. It prompts a carer to think about how the home can be changed to assist the person living with dementia.

A screenshot from The Dementia Friendly Home

Many of the app suggestions are small, inexpensive ideas, such as placing labels with pictures on cupboard doors. More significant changes include installing motion sensors that turn lights on and off when people walk through the house and changing busily patterned wall or floor coverings.

Norm Smith, a carer, said he wanted to help his wife Cathy to feel comfortable in their family home.

"Using the app affirmed ideas I'd had around labelling cupboards and keeping floors and hallways clear and well lit. It also made me realise I need to try to pre-empt situations that could be challenging for Cathy when we visit other people's homes or our church."

"Enabling Cathy to remain involved in the daily routine, even just being able to make a cup of tea for herself and guests, to contribute to the household planning and activity is really important to us and impacts positively on her and our family," Mr Smith said.

The Dementia-Friendly Home was developed through funding by the joint Commonwealth and State Government Home and Community Care program. The Deakin Software and Technology Innovation Laboratory (DSTIL) worked with Alzheimer's Australia Vic to develop this technology.

Deakin University researcher Professor Rajesh Vasa said the research team was honoured to have worked with Alzheimer's Australia Vic to develop the app.

"It is really exciting to be able to use our expertise in interactive, gaming and virtual reality technologies to support Alzheimer's Australia Vic’s core mission of education and understanding of the reality of dementia," Professor Vasa said.

"This app provides valuable support to carers of those living with dementia and we are delighted to have been involved in this very important project.”

The Dementia-Friendly Home is $2.99 on the App Store and Google Play.

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