Researchers from Swinburne University of Technology are calling for carers of people with dementia to take part in an online questionnaire to assist with the development of a virtual reality tablet-based application.

The identity and interests survey asks carers to share the former and current characteristics, lifestyles, interests and memories of the person they are caring for, as well as the things that person misses and wishes.

The underlying project seeks to use this information to map “wish and miss events” and expand the 3D interactive world the team from Swinburne is developing especially for people across the dementia spectrum.

The request for professional and non-professional carer involvement is to broaden the content and interaction base, said Mandy Salomon, project lead and senior researcher at Smart Services CRC based at Swinburne.

“By casting a wide net to find out what lots of people think, we can start to draw some conclusions,” Ms Salomon said.

Mandy Salomon
Mandy Salomon

For example, if many people report thinking about a particular activity such as horse riding that would indicate it was a good idea to simulate that, she said.

The main project is called Applying Virtual Environments for Dementia Care and is known as AVED. It is part of Ms Salomon’s PhD and has the support of Alzheimer’s Australia Vic.

AVED is a prototype 3D environment people play with on a touch screen tablet, such as an iPad. It aims to engage the person with dementia in a fun and entertaining way and is based on Montessori methods, she said.

The prototype content is based around what engages people with dementia, such as information on a person’s work life, social roles, family roles, the things that they wish they could do but never did and the things and people that they miss.

“All these things are pertinent to a person but in the culture of person-centred care all these things are important to a person with dementia. For the activity to be meaningful to them it has to tap into their own experiences.”

While looking at what people want and can do within the context of an activities and recreation program in a residential aged care facility, you can’t let your imagination run free because it is simply not practical, Ms Salomon said. However, there are no such constraints in the digital world, she said.

“We want people’s imaginations to be let loose for this questionnaire and the carer can do that on behalf of the person. We suggest in the survey that they consult with the person where possible.”

Click the following to access the survey, which is open from today for a month: Identity and Interests questionnaire

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