An avatar called Ted is hoping to help aged care workers learn how to better communicate and support people living with dementia.
Ted is an artificially intelligent avatar and is the star of the Talk with Ted virtual tool designed to help care workers are better equipped to support people living with dementia.
The new immersive experience - which users access via their computer - provides and online simulation of a typical conversation between a care worker and someone living with dementia.
Ted, the avatar, is living with dementia and conveys a range of emotions and verbal responses during the simulation, providing users with the opportunity to work through a common challenging scenario.
Dementia Australia chief executive Maree McCabe said with almost half a million Australians living with dementia - tipped to increase to 1.1 million by 2058 - there must be greater focus on workforce training and quality dementia care, including effective and engaging communication.
"Talk with Ted is a world-first in dementia education, and applies a person-centred approach to developing skills, which ensures users learn how to put the individual and their needs at the forefront of every interaction," she said.
"The tool allows workers to practice their communication skills in a safe environment, where they can learn from their mistakes and improve their practice.
"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."
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The program was designed by Dementia Australia's Centre for Dementia Learning and Deakin University's Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute (AI) in collaboration with care workers, and is based on real life experiences of people living with dementia.
AI co-director, Professor Kon Mouzakis, said Talk with Ted is an example of how avatar technology can be used to foster empathy and understanding.
"Ted has the ability to change the way aged care staff think and act. The training tool has the potential to prompt vast changes in the way care is delivered to people living with dementia," 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."
Katy Cavanagh is the residential manager at aged care provider Lifeview. She said Talk with Ted could significantly help aged care providers and workers more respectfully and effectively communicate with people living 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.
"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."
- If you need help phone the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.
- Alternatively visit dementia.org.au