Ask Annie launches to give helping hand to dementia carers
23 June 2021 at 5:41 pm
The mobile app is designed to build the skills of home carers looking after people with dementia
Unlike those working in a hospital or an aged care centre, community and home support carers for people with dementia often lack the support to provide proper care in difficult situations. It’s something a new app is trying to change.
Developed by Dementia Australia, and with the financial backing of Gandel Philanthropy, the Ask Annie app provides community and home support carers with a range of learning modules based on real life experiences such as how to manage a client who doesn’t want to take their medication or have a shower.
With around half a million Australians living with dementia, a figure expected to increase to 1.1 million people by 2058, the need for training is vital.
The launch of the app follows calls for increased workforce dementia specific training, highlighted in the final report for the Royal Commission into Aged Care.
Community and home support carers are prone to falling through the gaps when it comes to professional development and training options, with the workers almost never in the office, travelling by themselves from client to client with not a lot of time in between.
On top of this, Maree McCabe, the CEO of Dementia Australia, said community carers faced a set of unique challenges when looking after their clients with dementia.
“Getting through the door can be an issue for a lot of carers,” McCabe told Pro Bono News.
“They might go to a client’s home, and the client won’t let them in because the client doesn’t remember they’ve been coming there for two months or three months.”
Ask Annie aims to help, by providing on the go support.
McCabe said the app’s micro lessons meant carers could access help and refresh their knowledge at any time.
“Everybody carries a mobile phone, so if you’re in a difficult situation, you just type in what it is you need to know, and then you’ve got the answers.”
“And if you want to know more about that topic, you can go back at another time and learn more about it.”
Bridget Howes, the general manager of aged care centre BlueCross, said the app would be a game changer for how community dementia carers could provide support.
“The fact that it’s accessible on a mobile phone and for our home carers on the tablets they use at work, makes it really convenient,” Howes said.
“If one of our home carers has questions about how to care for a client living with dementia, like mealtimes or showering, they could take a few minutes before they arrive at their home to brush up on some tips that could help alleviate any challenges that may arise in the situation.”
Ask Annie has been designed in collaboration with community care workers. McCabe said it will be updated as new research around dementia care emerges, and to fit the changing needs of workers.
“The content on the app will be completely about what carers need, so if someone writes in [to Dementia Australia] asking for a module on taking somebody shopping safely, we will figure out how to develop that and upload it,” McCabe said.
Over the past few years Dementia Australia has been at the forefront of using technology to educate and support people living with dementia, their carers and families.
In 2014, the organisation won the Microsoft iAward for its Virtual Dementia Experience, an app that uses VR technology to enable users to see the world through the eyes of someone with dementia.
McCabe said that while technology was never going to be a replacement for people, it was a useful way for organisations to improve the way they provided care.
“It’s such a powerful way to support people in the care that they give to people living with dementia and to help them understand and to develop empathy and compassion for people living with dementia,” she said.
Ask Annie can be purchased through Dementia Australia’s Centre for Dementia Learning here.