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Photo: Dementia Australia

Visits between residents with dementia, loved ones focus of new app

For gamer, television presenter and Dementia Australia ambassador Stephanie Bendixsen, it was tricky coming up with different topics of conversation or activities she could share with her mother, who died earlier this year from dementia.

That’s why she’s excited about the release of a new free app from the peak body, which aims to help families and loved ones connect and communicate with those living with dementia.

Called A Better Visit, the app is filled with short games that are designed to be played together, like co-colouring, washing windows, bowling and a tango-inspired version of tic tac toe.

“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,” Bendixsen said. “Anything that helps you bring on a smile is welcome in my book.”

Dementia Australia chief executive Maree McCabe explained how Bendixsen was not alone in her experience with her mother. She said family members tell Dementia Australia they often simply don’t know how to communicate and interact with a loved one who has dementia, especially as their dementia advances.

“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 said.

Lifeview Residential Care supported the development of the app by helping connect Swinburne University developers with residents living with dementia.

Chief executive Madeline Gall said by observing and listening to residents living with dementia, Swinburne’s team of researchers were able to tailor the app. Some of the resulting inclusions were classic songs to prompt toe-tapping and singalongs, and clear button designs.

“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,” Gall said.

“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 Appstore.

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