Immersive virtual reality dementia learning offers de-escalation training

Last updated on 23 May 2024

Dementia Australia has designed an immersive virtual reality training program to help staff de-escalate behavioural emergencies. [Dementia Australia]

Aged care and frontline healthcare workers are set to benefit from a modern training tool devised by Dementia Australia following the launch of D-Esc, a virtual reality (VR) training workshop.

D-Esc, as the name alludes to, has been developed with the Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute at Deakin University to help educate workers on de-escalating a behavioural emergency in care settings involving a resident or care client living with dementia. 

But unlike many other training options, it’s an immersive simulation providing an interactive approach to de-escalation training. 

Dementia Australia Executive Director Services, Advocacy and Research Dr Kaele Stokes said this new workshop provides training integral to the safety and professional development of the workforce and to improve the care of people living with dementia.

“Behavioural emergencies and occupational violence in aged care are time-critical emergencies,” Dr Stokes said.

“We know that dementia can change people’s behaviour. People living with dementia may feel anxious, fearful, distressed, confused. They may also be in pain or disorientated.

“Sometimes the way they are experiencing a situation may mean a person is unable to communicate how they feel or what they are experiencing in the familiar ways.”

The D-Esc workshops are designed for frontline health and aged care workers across residential, home and community care, primary and acute care and disability care. There are limited spaces, however, with the fully funded workshop available to just 6,500 eligible participants between now and June 30, 2025.

Each in-person three-hour workshop will help participants strengthen their empathy and understanding towards people with dementia, with the aim to reduce the use of restrictive practices and the number and severity of dangerous incidents in care.

“The way a care worker communicates with people living with dementia is vital. Communication is not just talking. Gestures, movement and facial expressions can all convey meaning. Body language and physical contact become significant when speech is difficult for a person with dementia,” Dr Stokes added.

“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.

“D-Esc leverages technology to build participants’ confidence and capability to assess and respond effectively to changed behaviours safely.”

Dementia Australia Dementia Advocate Phil Hazell lives with younger onset dementia. Mr Hazell believes that training like this is important for promoting understanding and awareness around dementia.

“I like to know that I am understood. It is important that people comprehend what dementia is and how it can affect people differently,” Mr Hazell said.

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

Providers interested in involving their staff are encouraged to visit or contact [email protected] to confirm worker eligibility.

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