A Better Visit Information & App
A Better Visit Information & App
Families and friends of residents living with dementia attended a complimentary information and training session at Mayflower Brighton recently.
At Mayflower we believe in equipping and empowering people with the knowledge and resources they need to help them have a more meaningful and interactive relationship with loved ones affected by dementia.
Dementia Australia presented the session at Mayflower Brighton, with many friends and family members of residents living with dementia in attendance.
Key topics covered at the information session included:
- what dementia really is
- how to engage people living with dementia
- practical strategies for having ‘A Better Visit’ with someone who has dementia while using the 'A Better Visit' app
- how Dementia Australia’s services and support can help people impacted by dementia
Some key points from the trainingsession are outlined below, along some helpful resources if you would like more information.
What is Dementia?
According to Dementia Australia, dementia is the umbrella term used to describe the symptoms of around 150+ different illnesses which cause an ongoing and progressive decline in a person’s ability to function. It is a very broad “umbrella-term” and includes the decline in a person’s ability to remember/loss of memory, reduced cognition and social skills as well as a change in emotional reactions.
Dementia Australia explains further what dementia looks like: “For a long time, the person may look healthy, but on the inside their brain is not working properly. Some people mistakenly think that dementia is ‘going nuts’, when in fact the brain is being affected by a disease.”
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common and well-known form of dementia, accounting for 50%-70% of all cases and is a progressive, degenerative condition that primarily affects the brain.
Meaningful engagement strategies
Family and friends can support people living with dementia in a variety of ways:
Knowledge - Learning about dementia and having a more in-depth understanding of it can really help you to understand what is going on, and help you form some personalised strategies of your own.
A great (free) online course for learning more is provided by the University of Tasmania’s Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre (commonly referred to as UTAS). UTAS holds two online and highly interactive courses several times a year. These courses are absolutely brilliant and can count as credits towards a Bachelors Degree, should you choose to take your learning further.
The first course runs for 7 weeks and is called Understanding Dementia, and the second one runs for 4 weeks and is called Preventing Dementia, which is a great resource of knowledge for anyone at any stage of life, with or without a diagnosis of dementia. You can view these free courses here: https://mooc.utas.edu.au/
Tastes, smells, sounds – These can all trigger memories and bring a sense of comfort or stimulate the mind. You may choose to bring in a loved one’s favourite treat, find a favourite perfume that they or their mother wore, or find their favourite music from when they were under 30 years old and play it for them. Have a chat and spend time reminiscing about these things, and the results just may surprise you.
Activities - Dementia Australia suggests supporting the person to do the sort of things they enjoyed doing before they were diagnosed with dementia. Perhaps they enjoyed going to the cinema, gardening, walks in the park or along the beach, the opera or even the football. When choosing an outing, keep in mind the person’s ability to walk and the accessibility of the venue, as well as if the noise will be too stimulating and if an alternative option might be considered. An example of an alternative option might be using the Mayflower Brighton Cinema with the volume a little lower, or by sitting in a less crowded position at the football. You don’t need your memory to be able to enjoy something, and neither does your loved one. It is important to continue activities and outings for as long as the person with dementia is still enjoying them.
Touch - Often a person with dementia will not remember a recent occasion, or a person’s face, or may not understand what a person is saying. They will remember the feeling and emotions associated with an occasion or person. So, it is important that you work towards a positive, dignified and comfortable interaction with them. You may choose to use gentle touch to gain or keep the person’s attention. Gentle touch, as long as it is appropriate, is a lovely way to communicate feelings of love, worth and affection.
Tone - When speaking, use a gentle tone of voice and keep sentences short and to the point. Avoid asking open-ended questions. For example, ask “Did you enjoy your lunch?” instead of “What was for lunch? Did you like it?” as this can become confusing. Give the person plenty of time to think about what you have said or asked, and to form their response. 38% of communication is the tone and pitch of your voice, and only 7% is the words we use.
Body Language - The remaining 55% of communication is body language, so it is important to be mindful of this and to keep your body language open and non-threatening. Avoid crossing your arms or standing above the person as this can feel like domination. Instead, you may choose to sit or kneel to their eye level, smile, hold their hand if they feel comfortable with it, and use it to communicate, e.g. waving while saying hello.
A Better Visit – the app
The ‘A Better Visit’ app is designed to help families have a better visit with family members living in residential aged care homes such as Mayflower. Sometimes it can feel uncomfortable trying to interact and engage with a loved one who no longer recognises you. The app is a great way to overcome this struggle and find new ways to enjoy each other’s company.
The ‘A Better Visit’ app is free, and available on both Apple and Android tablet devices. The app is fantastic and gives all members of the family as well as friend the opportunity to engage with the person living with dementia in a fun, positive and interactive way. The app promotes social inclusion, helps strengthen bonds across generations, promotes conversation and is a great conversation starter, prompting reminiscing and play.
The app boasts 8 two-player games, with simple instructions and large clear graphics, adjustable speeds and is very interactive.
You can view a short 4 minute video explaining how to use the app and download it for your iPad or tablet device here. dementia.org.au/information/resources/technology/abettervisit
Tips for using the A Better Visit App
Find a quiet space, that is comfortable and not too brightly lit, to reduce distractions and help the person you are spending time with to focus.
Open the app, hear the music. Does it bring back memories for you both? Can you sing-along?
Choose a game together. It may help of you explore and practice the games yourself first, to have a better idea of what might be suitable.
Use the app as a way to start a conversation and reminisce. For example, you might try the “Washing Windows” game and reveal an image about the Twelve Apostles. You could chat about the time you went there as a family and recall together what you got up to.
There is no right or wrong way to play, and there are no rules. Just have fun!
How Dementia Australia can help you
Dementia Australia has many free and readily available resources for you to access. The most direct way to access information sheets for information around dementia, strategies, risk reduction and other topics is via their website dementia.org.au. Dementia Australia also has services and programs for people impacted by dementia, advice around rights and responsibilities, and support for Younger Onset Dementia (YOD). A range of education sessions, covering a variety of topics in a comfortable environment is also available.
Dementia Australia has an advice and support helpline and offers counselling to you and your loved one living with dementia. You can call the Dementia Helpline during business hours on 1800 100 500 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org to speak to one of their trained staff members, confidentially.