For those with limited experience communicating with a person with dementia, even the most well-intentioned act can quickly spiral into a distressing scene for both the carer and person receiving care. And while practise makes perfect, honing your skills on real people isn’t always ideal. Thankfully, Ted is here to help.
Ted is living with dementia. He is also an AI avatar featuring in Talk with Ted, a world-first dementia education module for the aged care sector.
Dr Tanya Petrovich, business innovation manager at the Centre for Dementia Learning, says the module has been designed for anyone supporting a person living with dementia, whether that be in a home care setting or residential facility.
“The scenario is you’ve walked into Ted’s bedroom and he’s in his pyjamas, and you’ve been asked to help Ted into the shower,” Petrovich says.
Ted’s artificial intelligence allows him to have a conversation with the user, responding to them and remembering what they have said throughout the encounter.
“So what is important is that we ensure we are addressing Ted’s needs in that conversation, because he’s being a little emotional and we need to understand what’s going on for Ted really, to connect with Ted.
“Through the experience, that’s what you need to do to have a successful outcome, not be task focussed, but be person-centred, and make sure that we’re connecting with the person in the right way.”
The one-hour module involves an initial simulation, after which you learn about good communication skills and complete a second simulation which allows you to employ those skills.
“The results we’re getting are really amazing,” Petrovich says.
The Centre for Dementia Learning partnered with Deakin University’s Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute to develop the program, which was launched in May and has been three years in the making.
“It’s a very complex development and we’re really pleased with where it’s landed.”
“It’s incredibly powerful to have a simulated experience where you can test yourself and learn in a very safe environment without actually hurting a person living with dementia,” Petrovich says.
Because of the cutting-edge technology involved, users need to have a computer which is less than five years old.
As well as training those in the field, Petrovich believes Talk with Ted would be a fantastic tool for assessing people before they begin working in aged care.
“You could get them to have the experience and see, did they actually enjoy talking to Ted? Is this something they actually want to do?
“It’s a good way of screening people before they start working in this area to ensure that this is actually something they want to do and [help them] understand their emotional intelligence, and how to connect with people.”