De-escalation VR training for behavioural emergencies set to revolutionise dementia education

News / Davina Montgomery / July 4, 2024

Revolutionising Dementia Education with VR Training

For our frontline aged care staff and healthcare professionals, caring for people living with dementia comes with the reality of behavioural emergencies and occupational violence.

These time-critical emergencies require immediate and effective responses.

To address this challenge, Dementia Australia has launched D-Esc, an innovative virtual reality (VR) training workshop developed in collaboration with Deakin University’s Applied AI Institute. This training provides essential de-escalation skills in a virtual care setting.

A health care workers wearing a Dementia Australia virtual reality headset tests out D-Esc VR training
Image supplied: Dementia Australia


The Creation of D-Esc

D-Esc offers an immersive simulation that adopts an interactive approach to de-escalation training.

“We know that dementia can change people’s behaviour. People living with dementia may feel anxious, fearful, distressed, or confused. They may also be in pain or disoriented,” explains Dr. Kaele Stokes, Dementia Australia Executive Director of Services, Advocacy, and Research.

Dr Stokes said the way care workers communicate with people living with dementia is vital, as communication involves more than just talking. Gestures, movement, and facial expressions convey meaning, making body language and physical contact significant when speech is difficult.

Training Empathy and Communication

The D-Esc course helps participants build empathy, increase understanding of dementia, and enhance communication skills.

Participants learn to recognize emotional and physical signs of escalation and how to reduce the risk of harm for 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 behavioural changes.

Dementia Advocate Phil Hazell, who lives with younger onset dementia, emphasizes the importance of such training for promoting understanding and awareness around dementia.

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


Andrew Vouliotis (left), with Prof Rajesh Vasa (second right) and Michael Abbott (left) from Deakin's Applied AI Institute at the D-Esc launch in Melbourne.
Andrew Vouliotis (left), with Prof Rajesh Vasa (second right) and Michael Abbott (left) from Deakin’s Applied AI Institute at the D-Esc launch in Melbourne. Image supplied: Dementia Australia


Collaborative Efforts and Challenges

Andrew Vouliotis, Product Manager at Deakin’s Applied AI Institute who led the virtual reality simulation development team, said the challenge with D-Esc was to ensure the realism of the VR experience.

To achieve this, the team collaborated closely with Dementia Australia to develop scenarios commonly encountered in aged care settings.

The VR simulation emphasizes the significance of decisions in confronting situations, giving users a limited amount of time to respond.

This approach ensures that the training is realistic and effectively prepares frontline and aged care workers for real-world scenarios.


The Deakin team test out the D-Esc virtual reality training at the D-Esc launch in Melbourne.
The Deakin team tested out the D-Esc virtual reality training at the D-Esc launch in Melbourne. Image supplied: Dementia Australia


Effectiveness of Simulation Training

Interactive and simulation training has proven to be highly effective in the aged care space.

The Applied AI Institute has been collaborating with Dementia Australia for over ten years, creating high-impact educational technologies including Dementia Friendly Home, EDIE VR, Talk with Ted, and BrainTrack.

D-Esc is the third VR experience developed for Dementia Australia, with EDIE VR already being rolled out globally, including in Italy.

Anecdotal evidence shows that people remember EDIE and Talk with Ted for many years after completing the experience. Trials with Talk with Ted showed that 100% of participants could recall key learning outcomes eight weeks after completing the course, compared to only 20% for traditional education.

Launch events for D-Esc have been held across Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, where aged care professionals experienced demonstrations. The 3-hour workshops are designed for frontline health and aged care workers across residential, home, and community care, primary and acute care, and disability care.


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For support, please contact the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500 (24 hours, 7 days a week). An interpreter service is available. The National Dementia Helpline is funded by the Australian Government.