Central Victorians living with dementia and those tasked with their care will soon have access to a mobile phone app connecting them with support services in the region.
The SENDER app, launched during September to coincide with Dementia Awareness Month, will be trialled with patients at Heathcote Health from next week. People living in Warracknabeal, 200 kilometres north-west of Bendigo, will also be able to use the tool.
The two town’s health services joined with La Trobe University to develop the app.
La Trobe research officer Clare Wilding compared the app to Travel Adviser, saying it not only allowed users to find nearby services, but provided them the chance to chat about their experiences with dementia.
Heathcote Health chief executive officer Dan Douglass said the technological development was especially important for people living in regional areas who might not know where to turn when a diagnosis of dementia was delivered.
“In a rural environment, you don’t have all the bells and whistles you do in urban areas,” Mr Douglass said.
“It's about understanding where those services are and whether you can get them into your areas.”
Those services might not be ones specific to dementia care, Mr Douglass said, with carers also needing to know about transport and socialisation opportunities available for them and their loved ones.
He conceded the use of digital technology could be a hurdle to some people and their carers, many of whom are ageing.
But the trial was a chance to coach participants through the use of the app as well as impress upon the government and telecommunications providers the need for high-quality phone reception and internet access in regional area.
Telstra will donate mobile phones so study participants can participate in the trial.
Heathcote’s involvement with the app follows news it intends to become home to a residential village for people living with dementia.
If completed, the village would be the first of its kind in Australia.