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As dementia numbers in Australia continue to skyrocket, researchers have developed a new virtual reality program to help carers walk in the shoes of those who live with the condition.

The program, Meaningful Spaces, is an immersive VR training resource developed by the University of Western Australia. It allows healthcare workers to experience some of the challenges dementia sufferers face in their everyday lives.

While the virtual reality scenarios are based on residential care, the principles apply across all care settings.

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Dementia Training Australia

The team from UWA’s WA Centre for Health and Ageing developed the program through the Dementia Training Australia consortium.

Initial interactive workshops using the VR program will be held in WA.

Dr Andrew Stafford from UWA’s Dementia Training Australia team said, ‘We think that this new resource has the potential to address some of the key issues around providing high quality dementia care.

‘The current Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety has highlighted a number of areas where engaging, high quality training experiences can improve the lives of people living with dementia.

‘The Meaningful Spaces experience is profoundly emotive, and participants are more engaged in these workshops than with traditional classroom-type training events,’ he said.

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Empowering technology

UWA’s Director of Dementia Training Australia, Ellie Newman, said the technology empowered participants to rationalise the use of medication in dementia care, and create supportive, more home-like environments.

‘Change starts from within, and this resource provides participants with the opportunity to experience, first hand, the interaction of medications and the environment for someone living with dementia,’ said Ms Newman.

If it’s successful, the VR program will hopefully be rolled out beyond Western Australia in the future.

Currently 250 people are joining the population with dementia in Australia each day.