16/03/2016 2:35 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST

New 3D App To Help Make The Homes Of Dementia Sufferers More Dementia-Friendly

Alistair Berg via Getty Images
Elderly woman, aged 77, using tablet computer to look at photos in a private retirement home

A new app that provides ideas for carers and families to make the home of dementia suffers more dementia-friendly was launched by Alzheimer’s Australia Vic on Wednesday.

Drawing inspiration from the ten Dementia Enabling Environment Principles, the ‘Dementia Friendly-Home’ app recommends practical changes for carers that can be made to enable sufferers to stay in their own home and remain engaged with their community for longer.

Maree McCabe, CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia Vic, said that the driving force behind the creation of the app was to produce something that was both educational and easily accessible.

“We’ve been working with virtual dementia technology now for a number of years,” she told The Huffington Post Australia.

“We wanted something that was more portable and we particularly wanted something that would make a difference to carers and making sure the home was dementia friendly.”

McCabe also highlighted that many dementia sufferers experience spatial and visual challenges, symptoms that are not as commonly understood as memory issues.

“Changes in the brain can impact on day-to-day functions and potentially confuse people living with dementia,” she said.

“Identifying ways the home and environment can be modified to ameliorate any challenges will make a difference to the person living with dementia.”

When users first open the app they can touch an area of the house on a virtual floorplan and strategically placed question marks will appear which, when clicked, gives tips on making the area dementia friendly.

Strategically placed question marks give tips on how to improve certain areas of the home, such as changing the busily patterned floor tiles.

Such tips may include placing labels with pictures on cupboard doors in the kitchen, changing busily patterned wall or floor coverings and even installing motion sensors that turn lights on and off when people walk through the house.

The app shows what a 'good' bathroom looks like. In this bathroom, there are no busily patterned floor tiles or potential trip hazards for dementia sufferers.

“It’s fun and very engaging,” McCabe said.

“We really want to encourage people to use this because you really start to see how little it takes to make a big difference in the environment for dementia sufferers.”

Norm Smith, a carer for his 53-year-old wife Cathy who is living with dementia, said that he has used the app to help his wife feel comfortable in their family home.

“Using the app affirmed ideas I’d had around labelling cupboards and keeping floors and hallways clear and well lit,” he said.

“It also made me realise I need to try and pre-empt situations that could be challenging for Cathy when we visit other people’s homes or our church.

“Enabling Cathy to remain involved in the daily routine, even just being able to make a cup of tea for herself and guests, to contribute to the household planning and activity is really important to us and impacts positively on her and our family.”

In order to develop the app, Alzheimer’s Australia Vic worked with the Deakin Software and Technology Innovation Laboratory (DSTIL).

Professor Rajesh Vasa from Deakin University said that the team was honoured to have worked on the project, which took just over a year to develop.

“It is really exciting to be able to use our expertise in interactive, gaming and virtual reality technologies to support Alzheimer’s Australia Vic’s core mission of education and understanding the reality of dementia,” he said.

“This app provides valuable support to carers of those living with dementia and we are delighted to have been involved in this very important project.”