A world-first transportable Care Villa for people living with dementia has been launched in rural Victoria.
Costerfield House was officially opened in Heathcote on September 21 - coinciding with World Alzheimer's Day.
Created by The Heathcote Dementia Alliance - a small voluntary community group in rural Victoria - the house is fit-for-purpose for people living with dementia and their carers.
It features a bush-inspired architectural design and the latest in artificial intelligence and assistive technology, providing a safe environment for independent living, while reducing challenges for carers.
The alliance's president Sandra Slatter said the home's innovative design was a result of four years of research, community consultation and expert advice.
It was funded via donations from local businesses, community groups and individuals.
"Local community members have also helped with various aspects of the fit-out to help keep costs at a minimum. This is a true example of a community led grass roots initiative," Ms Slatter said.
Everything in the home can be done at the touch of a button, the swipe of a card, or an instruction to Alexa - the voice of Amazon. Other features include specially designed cabinetry and flooring, camera free sensors, alert devices, slip resistant vinyl flooring, accessible kitchen design, and artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to monitor residents' activities and behaviours.
"These sensors discreetly collect data on movement patterns, sleep quality, bathroom usage and meal preparation activities, " Ms Slatter said.
"If the person with dementia has a fall, or the fridge has not been opened by a certain time, a 'red flag' alert is sent to a designated family member or an 'in home' care provider."
The home features a range of cutting edge dementia friendly features. There is a distinct line of sight from the front door to the main bedroom, where the eye is naturally drawn by a coloured feature wall which can be customised with images relatable to the person with dementia, such as pictures of family members or pets.
Shelving spans the width of the villa in place of an institutionalised handrail to assist residents with mobility issues.
Furnishings and the timber feature wall have also been equipped with a range of textures designed to evoke memories.
The main bedroom has been designed with a clear line of sight to the toilet, a pulldown wardrobe and LED lighting, while bathroom features include a heated towel rail and regulated water temperature. Contrasting colours lead into the shower and behind the toilet and basin to allow for easy identification.
The 'in-home' care provider's room has an electronic access door and features a desk which converts into a double bed without having to be cleared when not in use.
Ms Slatter said the home - which is located on property at small rural hospital Heathcote Health, will serve as a "living lab" for the next six months.
People with dementia and carers will be invited to tour the place to provide feedback on what does or doesn't work for them, which may lead to "tweaks" to the home's set up.
Once this six month period is over and the final design is completed, the home will be gifted to Heathcote Health, who will select people with dementia and carers to visit for respite visits, in consultation with Latrobe University and two local aged care providers.
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