World-first AI Avatar in dementia education set to improve care

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Dementia Australia has today launched a new immersive experience, Talk with Ted, designed to educate care workers to better communicate with and support people living with dementia.

Talk with Ted uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to provide an online simulation of a typical communication experience between a care worker and someone living with dementia. 

Ted, the AI Avatar, is living with dementia and conveys a range of emotions and verbal responses during the simulation, providing care workers the opportunity to work through a common support scenario.

Talk with Ted is an innovative virtual tool to help ensure our aged care workforce are well-trained and equipped to better support people living with dementia,” Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe said.

With almost half a million Australians living with dementia – which is projected to increase to 1.1 million people by 2058 – Ms McCabe said there must be greater focus on workforce training and quality dementia care, including effective and engaging communication.

Talk with Ted is a world-first in dementia education, and applies a person-centred approach to developing skills, which ensures users learn how to put the individual and their needs at the forefront of every interaction.

“The tool allows workers to practice their communication skills in a safe environment, where they can learn from their mistakes and improve their practice.

“This type of experiential learning, that is both engaging and innovative, helps people to recall exactly what they’ve learned and makes them more likely to implement these new skills – which means better care for our loved ones living with dementia.”

The program was designed by Dementia Australia's Centre for Dementia Learning and Deakin University’s Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute (A²I²) in collaboration with care workers, and is based on real life experiences of people living with dementia.

A²I² Co-Director Professor Kon Mouzakis said Talk with Ted is an example of how avatar technology can be used to foster empathy and understanding.

“Ted has the ability to change the way aged care staff think and act. The training tool has the potential to prompt vast changes in the way care is delivered to people living with dementia,” Professor Mouzakis said.

“At the core of this tool is the ability to have a full conversation with Ted. Trainees must adapt their communication in a way that is empathetic and respectful of the behaviours associated with dementia.”

Lifeview Residential Manager Katy Cavanagh believes Talk with Ted could significantly help aged care providers and workers more respectfully and effectively communicate with people living with dementia.

Talk with Ted will help our team practice an everyday scenario that can sometimes be challenging when it comes to caring for people living with dementia,” Ms Cavanagh said.

“Through the program, they can work through the scenario using a range of approaches to communication, which they can then use in real life to provide better care to the residents.”

Talk with Ted can be purchased by individuals and all aged care providers across Australia through Dementia Australia's Centre for Dementia Learning, at dementialearning.org.au/technology/talk-with-ted/

For more information about the Dementia Australia Centre for Dementia Learning, its national services and technology, please visit dementialearning.org.au.

Dementia Australia is grateful for the support and funding provided by the Rosemary Norman Foundation over three years to develop Talk with Ted

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Dementia Australia is the source of trusted information, education and services for the estimated half a million Australians living with dementia, and the almost 1.6 million people involved in their care. We advocate for positive change and support vital research. We are here to support people impacted by dementia, and to enable them to live as well as possible. No matter how you are impacted by dementia or who you are, we are here for you.

For support, please contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500. An interpreter service is available and the Helpline is open 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday excluding public holidays. The National Dementia Helpline is funded by the Australian Government. People looking for information can also visit dementia.org.au 

Media contacts: Gabrielle Prabhu, 0447 253 583, [email protected] 

When talking or writing about dementia please refer to Dementia-Friendly Language Guidelines.