New video conferencing guide to help people living with dementia to stay connected online

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Resources to support people living with dementia to stay connected by video conferencing are now available through Dementia Australia.

Developed by people living with dementia, for people living with dementia, the resources are designed to support the use of video conferencing to stay in touch.

The need for the guides was identified by the Dementia Australia Advisory Committee, which is made up of people living with dementia.

With members across Australia, the team often meets by the Zoom video conferencing platform.

Dementia Australia Advisory Committee member Dennis Frost was involved in the discussion about the challenges of using Zoom and suggested the group develop some resources to support people living with dementia to navigate Zoom video conferencing.

“I have an IT background and I spend about 10 to 15 hours a week in online meetings, so I understand the challenges personally,” Mr Frost said.

“For people living with dementia, background noises are very distracting and there have been a few times that’s it’s been hard to concentrate on calls and this has made me understand how environmental issues are a big issue for people living with dementia.

“On the other side, our Dementia Australia Advisory Committee meetings have been clearly structured with agendas available in advance and that makes a difference. Like any meeting, whether online or face-to-face, having a clear structure makes it easier to follow what’s happening.

“As a means of communications, Zoom fills a lot of needs and sometimes you can’t meet in person. Having something like this may help someone reconsider connecting with others by using Zoom.”

The guides include practical step-by-step instructions on how to use the technology, and helpful tips on how to get the best out of the online experience, including preparing written signs to use during the meeting such as ‘I want to speak’ or ‘I agree’.

There are also tips on how to hold a dementia-friendly meeting, including taking a five-minute break every 30-45 minutes or when needed, ensuring everyone’s name is clearly displayed on screen, and making sure any meeting papers are emailed rather than in a link.

Members of the Advisory Committee developed the resources, and then sought feedback from others living with dementia and staff from Dementia Australia.

Juanita Hughes, who lives with dementia and is also a member of the Dementia Australia Advisory Committee, believes the guidelines promote the vision of people with dementia.

“There is so much raw talent in just the one group of people who are all living with dementia and we have been using Zoom to connect and learn long before this pandemic,” Ms Hughes said.

“Sure, you might take some extra time and effort, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have the ability to participate and contribute.

“Just because you have dementia doesn’t mean you don’t have capacities.”

The free, online resources are available at https://www.dementia.org.au/about-us/advisory-groups/dementia-australia-advisory-committee