Digital platform tackles isolation in aged care

Monday, 14 December, 2020

Digital platform tackles isolation in aged care

CollabCare has released FamilyShare — a digital platform designed for older Australians living with or without dementia. Developed as a result of extensive research at Monash University, the platform uses messages, videos, music and personal photographs to stimulate long-term memories.

The system has been shown to provide independence, pleasure, engagement, alleviation of boredom and loneliness, as well as a reduction in agitation, aggression and depression in people living with dementia.

CollabCare’s Dr Kanvar Nayer designed and documented the development of the platform as part of his research at Monash University — The Development of a Personalised Multimedia System for Individuals with Dementia. He explained that the elderly have a different attitude towards technology than the technologically experienced younger generation.

“Age-related challenges informed the design of the FamilyShare platform, in terms of colour choices, architecture, auditory amplification, screen illumination, large visual detail and the need for users to be seated if a screen-based non-medicinal intervention was to be used,” he said.

Dr Nayer was inspired to undertake the research having lived with his grandparents whilst growing up and observing the changes that they experienced both physically and perceptually. He dedicated his research to their memory and to the worldwide community of people affected by dementia. His research has been featured in the book Design of Assistive Technology for
Ageing Populations

Earlier this year, aged-care provider Japara trialled the FamilyShare platform at two of its facilities in Melbourne. Japara’s Dementia Consultant at the time, Ben Gatehouse, said he was excited by FamilyShare as an opportunity to alleviate boredom, social isolation and loneliness, which he believes to be an industry-wide challenge. He described FamilyShare as a ‘quality of life initiative’ for residents.

During the trial, Japara staff found that one of their residents with advanced dementia, who usually would not sit in one place for longer than a couple of minutes, would now sit with her family or staff and enjoy the photos on FamilyShare for an extended period of time.

The daughter of an 80-year-old woman with moderate dementia said, “FamilyShare normalised [her mother’s] life and gave her control over her happiness. It’s been like being at home and having access to what she would have done at home. It’s a lifestyle companion.”

The daughter stated during a family interview that she saw definite improvement in her mother’s cognition, which she attributed to motivation and engagement with the FamilyShare platform.

For aged-care providers, FamilyShare provides an administrative interface that can be used by staff as well as family members. This allows facilities to have a consistent approach to presenting and supporting FamilyShare to their residents, both in memory-support wings and within the overall resident population.

FamilyShare also provides support to the new residential aged-care regulatory obligations in the areas of resident and community engagement and reporting.

Image caption: Dr Kanvar Nayer developed the FamilyShare platform through his research at Monash University.

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