3D ‘dementia-friendly home’ app to assist carers and empower people living with dementia

Wednesday 16 March 2016

The Dementia-Friendly Home app has been launched by Alzheimer’s Australia Vic today. Using interactive 3D game technology Unreal Engine, the tablet app provides carers with ideas to make their home more accessible for people living with dementia.

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 app recommends practical changes that prompt a carer to think about how the home can be changed in a way that may assist the person living with dementia. 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, 53 and living with dementia, 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 app 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 app was launched today by Martin Foley MP, Minister for Housing, Disability and Ageing at the Perc Walkley Dementia Learning Centre, Alzheimer’s Australia Vic, Parkville, Melbourne.

The Dementia-Friendly Home app is now available for iPad from the App Store and Android tablets from the Google Play Store for $2.99. Further information can be found at www.fightdementia.org.au/vic.

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Notes to media

When writing or talking about dementia, please provide your audience with the number for our National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500 - a telephone information and support service available across Australia.

What is appropriate language for talking about dementia and why do we need it?

The words used to talk about dementia can have a significant impact on how people with dementia are viewed and treated in our community. Please read our Dementia Language Guidelines that have been developed by people living with dementia and carers.

About Alzheimer’s Australia Vic

In Victoria almost 97,000 people are living with dementia. This figure is projected to increase to 386,000 by 2050. Alzheimer’s Australia Vic is the charity and peak body representing people, of all ages, with all forms of dementia in Victoria. We provide specialised dementia information, education and support services.

Call our National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 or visit www.fightdementia.org.au/vic

Media contacts:

Christine Bolt 03 9816 5772 / 0400 004 553 /christine.bolt@dementia.org.au, Stephanie Puls 03 9816 5745 / 0427 757 434 / stephanie.puls@dementia.org.au