Aged Care

Virtual reality program teaches dementia care de-escalation

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Dementia Australia unveiled an innovative virtual reality (VR) training program called D-Esc in Adelaide.

This new virtual program aims to revolutionise how healthcare workers are trained to de-escalate emergency behaviour situations when caring for dementia patients.

D-Esc provides an immersive simulation experience designed specifically for frontline and healthcare professionals. By going through interactive VR scenarios, participants will build empathy and understanding towards people living with dementia. The goal is to reduce the use of restrictive practices and dangerous incidents in care facilities.

Dementia Australia Executive Director Dr Kaele Stokes explained that this new training is crucial for workforce safety, professional development, and improving dementia patient care. “Behavioural emergencies and occupational violence in aged care are time-critical emergencies.”

She emphasised that dementia can significantly change a person’s behaviour due to anxiety, fear, distress, confusion, pain or disorientation. Since those with dementia may struggle to communicate their experiences verbally, it’s vital for caregivers to recognise non-verbal cues like gestures, movement, facial expressions and body language.

“Course participants will build their empathy, increase their understanding of dementia and skills in communication, recognising emotional and physical signs of escalation and how to reduce the risk of harm for both the person with dementia, other residents, visitors and staff.” Dr Stokes said. “D-Esc leverages technology to build participants’ confidence and capability to assess and respond effectively to changed behaviours safely.”

Phil Hazell, who lives with younger-onset dementia, believes training like this promotes crucial awareness. “I like to know that I am understood. It is important that people comprehend what dementia is and how it can affect people differently.”

“Training can help workers to understand, approach and help people living with dementia, without making assumptions.”

The D-Esc workshops, funded until 2025, are being launched across Australia for frontline health and aged care workers across residential, home and community care, primary and acute care and disability care.

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