Sep 05, 2023

Eye-tracking tech: giving residents with dementia a say on care

Eye-tracking technology monitors and records eye movements to understand visual attention and behaviour using infrared sensors or cameras. [Source: Shutterstock]

Innovative eye-tracking technology is being used to ensure older people with dementia living in residential aged care can have a say in the quality of care they receive. 

For the first time, experts at the Caring Futures Institute (CFI) at South Australia’s Flinders University are integrating the technology into feedback tools to drive positive and effective change in our aged care system. 

Flinders University Researchers have previously developed two new validated quality assessment tools – the Quality of Life-Aged Care Consumers (QOL-ACC) and the Quality of Care Experience-Aged Care Consumers (QCE-ACC) – which are available and being used throughout the sector. These tools will now be improved with the help of eye-tracking technology to enable wider collection of self-reported quality of care and quality of life information from older people themselves. 

Why use eye-tracking technology?

Matthew Flinders Senior Research Fellow, Doctor Rachel Milte, helped work on the research and said older people with dementia living in residential care sometimes find it challenging to respond to traditional text-based questionnaires that rate the quality of life and quality of care they receive.  

In the study, researchers asked 41 residents ranging from ‘no’ to ‘mild or moderate’ cognitive impairment to complete a simple quality-of-life survey while sitting at a computer installed with eye-tracking technology.  

In real-time, the technology records where participants focus their eye gaze while completing the questionnaire, the text they read and don’t read, and parts of the questionnaire they spend the most time looking at.  

“This information helps us to design questionnaires which are easier for older people to complete, as well as understand whether they are reading all the key information to give high-quality data for use in assessing quality of care in residential aged care homes.” 

Future uses of eye-tracking technology

Dr Milte and her colleague Dr Jyoti Khadka are now working to expand this research program. The next project will focus on maximising self-completion of questionnaires and reducing the need to rely on proxy assessments by family members or close friends, which will support the scalability and cost-effectiveness of the National Aged Care Mandatory Quality Indicator Program. 

Rachel Milte
More than 50% of Australians living in residential aged care facilities have a dementia diagnosis. [Source: Supplied]

“We know from research in the disability sector and aphasia (language disorder) research that people with communication difficulties can self-report their own quality of life, if instruments are tailored to their needs and abilities,” Dr Khadka said.  

These accessible communication tools will be designed to be applied alongside traditional text-based questionnaires to enable a broad understanding of the quality of care experienced by older people in residential aged care. 

It will also provide accurate information to policymakers and practitioners about which innovations in care should be funded to improve the quality of life and well-being of all older Australians. 

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