VR en­hances car­ers’ knowl­edge

Ovens & Murray Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By CORAL COOKSLEY

A PRE­SEN­TA­TION about a new state-ofthe art dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy tool to un­der­stand peo­ple liv­ing with de­men­tia was de­liv­ered to a car­ers’ sup­port group at Beech­worth Health Ser­vices last month.

De­men­tia Aus­tralia’s Denise Gre­gory said the ed­u­ca­tional head­set - a vir­tual re­al­ity im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence - was an im­por­tant tool in un­der­stand­ing peo­ple with the brain dis­ease.

Known as ‘Edie’, the ex­pe­ri­ence gave fam­ily car­ers a chance to step in the shoes of some­one who lived with de­men­tia and helped un­der­stand how to com­mu­ni­cate too.

An im­por­tant train­ing tool for carer staff, vol­un­teers and the gen­eral pub­lic, co-founder of the car­ers sup­port group Ms Lorna Nash said she hoped that health pro­fes­sion­als would take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­nity in­clud­ing GP’s and di­ag­nos­tic health work­ers.

The 16-mem­ber car­ers group that meets monthly, was formed as a re­sult of the ‘Chang­ing Minds’ project that rolled out in Beech­worth three years ago.

The project emerged when Beech­worth be­came one of five Aus­tralian pilot de­men­tia-friendly com­mu­ni­ties rais­ing aware­ness in the town for peo­ple liv­ing with dis­ease.

Ms Nash said ev­ery group mem­ber had per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence as a carer that dis­tin­guished it from other groups.

The group is part of the Beech­worth Health Ser­vices vol­un­teer strat­egy too and also met to share ex­pe­ri­ences and sup­port each other.

Ms Nash said although peo­ple had an ill­ness, they still had a per­son­al­ity and worked hard to be nor­mal.

Beech­worth’s Di Ever­ing­ham said liv­ing with de­men­tia was how peo­ple could thrive and not just sur­vive in an en­vi­ron­ment.

“They are still the fab­ric of a com­mu­nity and have a role to play,” she said.

Ms Gre­gory said it was im­por­tant to break down bar­ri­ers

“We’re an age­ing pop­u­la­tion and de­men­tia is on the rise,” she said.

Car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk fac­tors, di­a­betes and high choles­terol have deemed to be lead­ing causes of de­men­tia.

“What’s good for your heart is good for your brain,” Ms Gre­gory said.

“Although there has been a lack of un­der­stand­ing about de­men­tia by many peo­ple, there had been in­creased aware­ness about liv­ing well with de­men­tia.”

De­men­tia, the se­cond lead­ing cause of death of all Aus­tralians, has jumped by 68 per­cent over the last decade.

De­men­tia Aus­tralia sta­tis­tics in­di­cate that more than an es­ti­mated 436,000 peo­ple live with the dis­ease and there are close to 1.5 mil­lion car­ers who look af­ter suf­fer­ers.

PHOTO: Coral Cooksley.

SUP­PORTED: Car­ers sup­port group mem­bers (from left) Lynne Oliver, Lorna Nash, Bron Cun­ning­ton, Deb­bie Tully, Judy Bur­nett, Di Ever­ing­ham, De­men­tia Aus­tralia’s Denise Gre­gory and Va­lerie Priv­ett at a re­cent ses­sion at Beech­worth Health Ser­vices.

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