Our Blog

Transforming Dementia Training with Virtual Reality

by Shannon, March 04, 2019

As a leading home care provider, Care Indeed seeks to help those in need of caregiving improve their quality of life. Many of our patients are coping with dementia. And, the level of care for patients in various stages of dementia calls for compassionate and cooperative care to manage the behavioral and physical changes that accompany the disease.

The Institute on Aging defines dementia as “the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person's daily life and activities.” To be specific, individuals with dementia struggle with self-management, problem solving, focus and memory. In addition, visual perception and language skills may also be affected.

Some people suffering from dementia have difficulty controlling their emotions, so you may notice that personalities change at different times of the day, especially depending on the severity of the disease.

That is why advanced training for caregivers, family members and community members is crucial to support people with dementia.


Introducing Virtual Reality

Dementia develops in many forms, but one constant is that it affects three major areas of the brain: decision making, language skills and memory. As a family member of caregiver, you may not know how to approach the patient or even help when he or she is struggling emotionally.

Putting yourself in the situation before it even occurs is one way to prepare. That is why Care Indeed has partnered with Strivr, a leader in the virtual reality training industry, to provide Virtual Reality Dementia Training for caregivers and those assisting individuals with dementia.

Virtual reality has received a lot of attention in the entertainment industry with devices such as Gear VR and Oculus Rift. However, more and more companies, educational institutions and even the military have been using virtual reality to train their employees.

With virtual reality, trainees are put into 3D environments while wearing audio-visual headsets. They can see situations as they unfold in real time and can then make decisions based on the situation.

Virtual reality training offers many advantages for not only caregivers and family members of patients with dementia, but also for any type of business. The advantages include:

  • More Visual Learning: Especially for people who learn better with visual aids, virtual reality presents information in a more appealing manner. Versus reading text or listening to lectures about how to perform jobs, they are able to learn through trial and error without the risks or consequences if they make poor decisions.
  • An Affordable Learning Option: It can be costly for employees to perform on-the-job tasks incorrectly. With virtual reality training, they learn before they are tasked with duties. In addition, the headsets and equipment required for virtual reality is relatively inexpensive.
  • A Risk-Free Environment: There could be fatal results if employees, caregivers, etc. are making mistakes on the job. However, with virtual reality training, they can see the consequences of their actions and decisions in a risk-free environment. Learning through trial and error, virtual reality gives participants a chance to explore how their decisions and actions affect others.
  • A Remote Training Option: Even if training participants are unable to be present in an actual classroom, the advanced technology with virtual reality training allows them to learn from virtually anywhere. Many companies are offering training via live feeds and computer applications to save on cost, but also equip staff with the training they need.
  • Better Retention and Recall: It’s no secret that we learn better when we can associate the lessons with our experiences. That is why virtual reality training has seen an upsurge in participants. Learners are better able to retain information, practice their skills and determine the right course of action because they have experienced the situations and scenarios in real time.


The Focus on Dementia Patients 

Dementia develops in three primary stages and people with the disease move through the stages at different speeds. Trying to predict the length of each stage is not necessarily possible, though, because each patient’s brain is affected differently.

For example, a patient with mild dementia can still function independently; however, they may experience symptoms that include lapses in memory or the ability to remember certain words. On average, this stage can last anywhere from two to four years, according to Dementia Care Central. During the VR Dementia Training, participants are exposed to how people with mild dementia may react to instructions or even respond to simple conversational phrases.

Individuals with moderate dementia face more challenges, though. They may experience challenges with expressing thoughts and performing daily tasks. Caregivers and family members supporting people with moderate dementia need to know how to spark conversations and dementia activities that improve memory function. In addition, individuals with moderate dementia may start to experience behavioral and mood changes that affect their actions. For instance, dementia patients may express frustration, anger, paranoia and even experience depression. During the VR Dementia Training offered by Care Indeed and powered by Strivr, participants are put in these types of situations to navigate how to offer support, compassion and caring responses.

Severe dementia is the most advanced stage of the disease and those affected begin to struggle with communication and memory. Some patients may forget how to do routine tasks, such as eating. More careful care is required. With virtual reality training, participants can actively interact with people facing severe dementia to see how their actions affect the mood and behavior of the patient.


Care Indeed’s Commitment to Learning

Care Indeed prides itself on offering continuing education and professional development opportunities for caregivers. The new Virtual Reality Dementia Training, though, takes training to an innovative level. In fact, according to Dee Bustos, CEO of Care Indeed, the company is the first home care company to invest in this type of technology.

“The goal is to teach through practical simulation rather than theoretical concepts,” said Bustos.

The partnership with Strivr to offer virtual reality dementia training stemmed from Care Indeed’s commitment to offer ongoing training and continuing education for caregivers, said Bustos. “Our caregivers had expressed their desire for additional training for them to effectively map out the best possible dementia care, so we partnered with Strivr and created the VR Dementia Training,” she said.

The pilot program is now in full swing. Participants of the pilot program have been guided through how to approach, communicate and respond to dementia clients. Caregivers were also guided through how to model physical movements, simplify difficult tasks and develop a caring and cooperative relationship with the clients in real time.

According to Bustos, the initial pilot program has been well received and has resulted in 98 percent of participants reporting that they felt engaged during the training. The program’s goals were also assessed during the pilot program to include that participants were building mental habits, assessing active listening skills, exposed to the outcomes of their actions and setting proper expectations.

Strivr has developed a reputation as a leader in virtual reality training while Care Indeed offers ongoing training for caregivers on a regular basis. The partnership to offer the VR Dementia Training was a natural move.

For more information about Care Indeed’s Virtual Reality Dementia Training program, contact the business development team at (877) 504-3822.