WA’s first purpose-built community dementia bus has been launched to provide respite and information to dementia carers, give people living with dementia access to VR technology and bring education and awareness to schools.
The bus will visit WA schools to raise awareness of dementia and help destigmatise the condition, which affects an estimated 41,600 West Australians and 450, 000 people nationally.
It will also stop off at community centres and people’s homes across metropolitan, regional and rural WA, providing an opportunity for islolated members of the community to access services, information and support.
The bus will start traveling through WA from September, with the remote Badjaling Aboriginal Community among the first places targeted for the first visit.
It will be fully airconditioned and have tea and coffee facilities and a pull-out awning. The bus will also be fitted with sensory materials designed to reduce stress and anxiety.
Educating a new generation
The bus is an initiative of not for profit disability and home care services organisation Community Vision which raised funds to buy it through its Roast to Remember campaign encouraging people to get together over a roast dinner.
The was launched at Roseworth Primary School in Girrawheen on August 14.
“As more people are affected more people will see their parents and grandparents suffering the diagnosis,” Community Vision CEO Michelle Jenkins says.
“Presentations and awareness-building visits from the bus will help these children to understand what a person with dementia experiences and prepare them with how to cope.”
Bringing new technology to isolated members of the community
She says Community Vision is particularly excited about using the bus to trial some new innovations in virtual reality.
“We are looking into VR art therapy programs as well as language assistance programs for example, if Italian is your first language, the VR world can take you walking through the streets of Rome, conversing in your first language. All these VR programs are designed to help with the de-escalation of anxiety caused by the disease,” she says.
WA widens age friendly communities grants
It comes as the WA government announced it is widening its age-friendly community grants program to include dementia programs with funding of up to $15,000 available for local governments and not-for-profit community groups.
The initiative, which aims to provide accessible, safe and engaging communities for older West Australians, will now be available to people with dementia and their carers, minister for seniors and ageing Mick Murray says.
“It is so important for seniors and people with dementia to be included in their communities, through engagement with others and opportunities to contribute and participate in positive ways.
Alzheimer’s WA General Manager Danielle Wrench said about 70 per cent of people with dementia living the state are based in the community.
“Dementia-friendly initiatives are vital to ensure we can continue to support people living with dementia to stay at home as long as possible,” she said.
Organisations with innovative ideas and pilot projects are encouraged to apply.
Stage two fundraising for the dementia bus about to kick off, with Community Vision hoping to raise enough for a full fit out and two staff, with the aim of visiting two locations a week.
A celebrity recipe book with contributions from leading WA chefs will be launched later this year to help raise funds for ongoing costs.