Ivy Palmer - Care Advice & News

Virtual Reality and Dementia

Research recently carried out by the University of Kent has found that virtual reality technology could help to improve the lives of those living with dementia.

The study of virtual reality and dementia suggests that by recalling memories from the past, levels of aggression are reduced and interactions with caregivers become easier. VR can also be used to help care professionals better understand the dementia experience and the needs of those they care for.

What is virtual reality used for?

In recent years developments in technology have dominated headlines, but what is virtual reality used for? Virtual reality immerses users in a virtual world and is perhaps most well-known in the context of gaming – but it doesn’t end there. Virtual reality has been used as a training aid for sport, to practise surgeries and procedures in medical training, and as part of therapy for treating post-traumatic stress disorder. More recently, virtual reality research has been conducted in the area of dementia, providing positive mental stimulation for those living with the condition and helping caregivers learn more about the lives of those they support.

Dementia and virtual reality

Research carried out by academic, Dr. Chee Siang Ang, used virtual reality devices on eight people in their late sixties living with dementia. Clinicians used a virtual reality headset with five calming environments for participants to choose from (a countryside, sandy beach, rocky beach, cathedral or forest), monitoring 15 minute sessions and reviewing feedback from both users and their carers. The study found:

  • Virtual reality helped participants recall old memories
  • Carers were able to learn more about participants’ lives (improving social interactions)
  • Reminiscing about the VR experience had a positive impact on mood
  • Reduced levels of depression, anxiety and hostility

As it becomes easier to produce virtual environments, creators have started to design virtual reality headsets for dementia that are customised to individual users. This may involve allowing them to virtually explore their home or visit a location that is significant for them.

Virtual reality headset for dementia

Silver Wood, a Japanese company, has created a virtual reality headset for dementia that includes a series of films intended to give users a better grasp of what it’s like to live with dementia. Silver Wood has been offering virtual reality dementia experiences since 2016, for local governments, education boards and hospitals. The 360o video experiences included in the headset are all based on interviews with those living with dementia, to reflect their reality as accurately as possible.

Virtual reality dementia training for carers

While it’s important that care staff receive robust training around the physical symptoms of dementia, it’s also important to understand the disease on a personal level. Trying to understand the dementia experience on a purely neurological level can make it difficult for carers to fully empathise with those they care for, especially if they have no first-hand experience with the condition.

Simulating the effects of the disease in virtual reality may enhance carers’ understanding of how to meet the specific care needs of those living with dementia. Dementia experiences are increasingly being used as part of training for care staff, with Training2Care’s mobile virtual dementia tour being used to simulate the mental and physical challenges faced by people with the condition. Using sensory stimulation devices and instruction, the virtual dementia tour bombards the senses to deliver an experience which is designed to be as close to the experience of having dementia as possible.

Does your loved one need dementia care?

When your loved one is diagnosed with dementia, it can be a shock. Adjusting to living with dementia can take time, but finding the right care option can make thing a little easier. At IP Homecare we offer a number of dementia live-in care services – all of which will help to improve quality of life in the familiar surroundings of home. Private live-in care provides professional, around-the-clock support, and is also available on a short-term respite basis. To find out more, contact our team of friendly professionals today.