An artificial intelligence avatar named Ted has been launched to help carers improve their communication with people experiencing dementia.
The Talk With Ted program, created by Dementia Australia, simulates a typical chat including emotional and verbal responses between a carer and the resident.
Dementia Australia chief executive officer Maree McCabe said the system would help people to learn and practice the skills of communicating with people with the condition.
“We do know that the more you know about the person, the more you understand about their stage and form of dementia, the more you can support them as an individual,” she told Inside Ageing.
“Being flexible in your approach will help with any situation.
“Demonstrating a person-centred approach to care will have a significant positive effect on the quality of life of a person living with dementia.”
Dementia care is one of the critical issues facing the aged care industry. About 500,000 Australians currently live with the brain disorder condition, and this is tipped to rise to 1.1 million in a generation.
How to effectively provide quality care for people living with dementia was a key element of the royal commission into aged care, which found the complex care required was an ongoing challenge for the industry.
More than half the residents in aged care homes have a diagnosis of dementia. “We are deeply concerned that so many aged care providers do not seem to have the skills and capacity required to care adequately for people living with dementia,” the final report said.
This training aims to address that.
Talk with Ted is a content platform that people use through a computer. The carer talks to Ted on the screen.
Ms McCabe said Talk with Ted was a world-first platform to allow workers the chance to work through common challenging scenarios.
She said they could practise, learn from their mistakes, and become more confident in their skills.
“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,” she said.
Residential Manager for Melbourne-based aged care provider Lifeview, Katy Cavanagh, said the system had the potential to assist workers and people 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 in a statement.
“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.”
The AI platform was created through a collaboration between Dementia Australia’s Centre for Dementia Learning and Deakin University’s Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute (A²I²), care workers, and was informed by real-life experiences of people living with dementia. Funding came from the Rosemary Norman Foundation.
A²I² Co-Director Professor Kon Mouzakis said the program was designed to foster empathy and understanding and had great potential to transform care.
“Ted has the ability to change the way aged care staff think and act,” 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.”
Individuals and groups can purchase the one-hour simulation training for $99. to the platform and learn more at the Centre for Dementia Learning.