Brussels, 26 October 2020

Alzheimer Care Trainer, an educational computer game to promote personalised Alzheimer’s care.

An European consortium of health experts, experts in design and development of digital health innovations, primary care and narrative simulation experts from Romania, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium is developing the Alzheimer Care Trainer, a serious game to train informal caregivers in their communication and behaviour in Alzheimer’s disease.

The POSTHCARD project is part of the European AAL (Active and Assisted Living) programme, which aims to develop ICT solutions so that senior citizens can live longer independently at home with a pleasant and active lifestyle. The project is co-financed by the European Commission, own resources and the national funding agencies in each partner country.

The Alzheimer Care Trainer (ACT) is a personalised 3D simulation that helps people practice everyday care situations before carrying out care tasks effectively. With the help of this new application, skills can be learned or improved to better cope with the changing behaviour of people living at home with Alzheimer’s disease. In this way, the best interaction style can be determined.

Specific characteristics of the Alzheimer’s Care Trainer

Caregivers find the behavioural symptoms (especially restlessness, aggressive behaviour, and personality changes such as depression) and difficulties in carrying out daily activities (showering or bathing, being alone and incontinence) most problematic. As symptoms worsen, the need for care increases. It is often a matter of finding the right balance between ‘taking care of someone effectively’ and ‘enjoying life together’. In the case of insufficient knowledge and training or lack of experience, the inability of the caregiver to adopt the right behaviour can often be a source of tension and emotional stress.  Information and education through Alzheimer’s and dementia associations, support and various tools are indispensable. To help achieve this balanced care relationship, the Alzheimer Care Trainer can also offer help.

A first workable prototype of the ACT has been developed and is being further developed and improved based on heuristic evaluations. The user interface is user and senior citizen friendly and the game is an abstract representation of a click game with a conversation and activity menu. In the game, Marion and Paula are the protagonists who guide the player through all the scenarios.

Unique to this game is the personalised simulation in which the player enters a virtual 3D environment. The user can set the simulation to the profile of the person in need of care by completing in-game questionnaires about the patient (virtual patient) and the user.  What stage of the disease is it in and how does this manifest itself in the patient’s behaviour? Is there agitation, aggression, apathy, restlessness, sleep disorder, repetitive activity, etc.? What are the goals: eating, showering, dressing? Depending on the choices, the game develops further and changes the storyline, the scenario.

Through participation in the design process, future users are encouraged to participate in the research. Conducting surveys in all partner countries, through questionnaires and interviews, provides a better insight into the needs, and wishes of all those involved. The emphasis is on ease of use, acceptance, functionality, and design of the platform.

Digital co-creation sessions

Earlier, the team opted for the elaboration of a few scenarios. Recently, informal caregivers of people with dementia were involved in the first of three iterative, co-creation sessions. Because of the Corona epidemic, the team had to rely on an online survey. The informal carers were asked to share personal examples of complex care situations. Behind the scenes, these examples were visually translated by other researchers at the same time, like a comic book. The co-creation session resulted in a rich, detailed, and unique collection of individual experiences. The feedback on the scenarios led to the addition of new dialogues, utensils and the showing of emotions of the characters Marion and Paula.  The care situations that were frequently mentioned are in line with the situations developed for the game. There are 4 recurring themes: showering and personal hygiene, eating (including preparation and cleaning), getting dressed and undressing and going somewhere (shopping, social appointment etc.).

Used technology – software

The Alzheimer Care Trainer is an ambitious project due to the complexity and specificity of its development. An interactive story as it is conceived in the project is very different from a linear story. It is not only developed according to the action of the user (player), but it also involves 3 different software namely a narrative engine, a Natural Language Generation (NLG) engine and a game engine. The goal is to integrate narrative events and actions, text and 3D space and animation and the user interface into a workable, interactive serious game.

Ambition of the Alzheimer Care Trainer

This application hopes to improve interpersonal communication and initiate pedagogically appropriate behaviour. In the long term, it aims to reduce care-related stress and thus improve quality care in the long term. The person with Alzheimer’s disease would be able to stay longer at home , allowing everyone involved to enjoy each other’s company.

ACT is intended to have a generic communication platform that works in all countries, on every computer, every browser and where people can meet and exchange experiences, ask questions, receive feedback and help from healthcare professionals.  The ACT will eventually be available in 3 languages (NL, FR, E).

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Project partners: FaTHER, Université de Genève, Hôpitaux universitaires de Genève, BRUSANO, Vilans, ConnectedCare, University of Twente and Alzheimer Netherlands.

Contact media: Pia Vandebergh – project leader Belgium – www.brusano.brussels

GSM: +32 (0) 470 744 410 – Email: pia.vandebergh@brusano.brussels

About Brusano vzw/asblwww.brusano.brussels

About Connected Carewww.connectedcare.nl

About University Twentewww.utwente.nl

About Vilanswww.vilans.nl

About Alzheimer Netherlandswww.alzheimer-nederland.nl

About Father https://father.guide

About Université de Genève www.unige.ch

About Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève www.hug.ch

Visit Alzheimercaretrainer.com and the project website Posthcard.eu.