‘Informal carers have a great need for reliable information’

Teaching informal carers and care professionals how to better cope with (new) behaviours of people living at home with dementia. This is the aim of the European AAL project POSTHCARD. With a ‘serious game’ they can practice difficult situations in a safe environment. Ultimately, that should lead to better support and lessen the burden associated with care.’

‘Older people with dementia can show behaviour that is misunderstood,’ says Henk Herman Nap, Vilans consultant and project coordinator in the Netherlands. ‘This game helps to improve how this can be handled. It is primarily intended for informal carers, but care professionals can also play it. We are now investigating whether the user interface is sufficiently user-friendly. In addition, we are developing a communication platform where people can ask one another questions and get help from professionals. This will become a generic platform that will soon work in all countries.’

Information often does not reach people

Vilans is developing the game together with Alzheimer Nederland and ConnectedCare. Dinant Bekkenkamp, Alzheimer Nederland: ‘Informal carers have a great need for reliable information, especially about dealing with new or confusing behaviour. The information is available, but often does not reach people. They cannot find it or the way it is presented does not suit them. This initiative can make a difference.’

Choices determine the game

The first prototypes of the game are now being developed. Laurens Kemp, designer at ConnectedCare, is closely involved. Kemp: ‘The game is an abstract representation of your life. You don’t see movies with real people, but people in a 3D environment. With your mouse you can click on objects or people, after which you can choose from a number of options. The game develops further depending on your choices. For example, do you react angrily because your mother forgot to turn off the coffee machine again? Or with sadness or compassion? That immediately has consequences for the continuation of the story. But there is no right or wrong. The point is that you become aware of the consequences of your words and actions.’

Responding to different stages of dementia

The game is structured in such a way that you can play the same episode again and have a different outcome. If you are reacting differently to a situation today than you did yesterday, it has immediate consequences for the rest of the questions. ‘Another important feature is that you can adjust the game to different stages of dementia,’ says Nap. ‘The game is also linked to the knowledge of dementia (care) for people who are seeking more in-depth or background information.’ The game will be tested this fall. Alzheimer Nederland also ensures that there is sufficient participation from people with hands-on experience . Bekkenkamp: ‘I hope that this will create an application that really helps informal carers and people with dementia in their daily lives.’

More virtual environments

Kemp agrees: ‘It will be difficult to prove the effects scientifically, but I am very satisfied if users respond positively and feel supported. I would also love it if we could create more virtual environments in the future, such as a supermarket or a treatment room in a hospital. And it would be nice if there was interest from the market, because that means that we have made something that the world is really waiting for.’

About AAL

POSTHCARD is an AAL project, a joint financing program that comprises 13 countries including Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Romania, Poland and Slovenia. Together these countries are developing projects to respond in time to demographic developments, with ageing in particular. The aim is to develop innovative, ICT-based solutions for older people and their environment.

Contact for this project:
Henk Herman