Exploring New Realities: A Journey Through VR Therapy for Dementia Care

Explore the power of VR Therapy for dementia care in our latest blog. Discover its transformative potential in enhancing cognitive function and emotional well-being.

This month, our Community Engagement Coordinator, Jasmine, attended an innovative session at LOROS Hospice, hosted by the Alzheimer’s Society, focusing on the use of virtual reality (VR) to enhance the well-being and quality of life for individuals with dementia. This session provided compelling insights into how VR can be integrated into dementia care practices moving forward.

The introduction to VR at LOROS Hospice coffee morning was led by RecreoVR, who specialize in creating VR experiences aimed at therapeutic outcomes specifically targeted at those with dementia. Their VR setup involves a stationary 360-degree experience that transports users to meaningful past locations or places they can no longer physically visit. Each session is concise, lasting only four minutes, but can be stopped at any time to accommodate the user’s comfort level. Additionally, these experiences can be streamed to a TV or shared via smartphone, allowing caregivers and family members to partake in the experience.

Participants engaged with VR sessions that evoked significant emotional and cognitive responses. The ability of VR to stimulate the senses and evoke memories was evident, illustrating the profound potential it holds in dementia care. Based on our observations, several benefits stood out:

1. Cognitive Stimulation and Memory Recall.
VR has the unique ability to stimulate cognitive functions and evoke memory recall. For individuals with dementia, revisiting cherished places can trigger memories, potentially strengthening neural pathways that are crucial for memory retention.

2. Emotional Well-being.
The emotional responses to VR were overwhelmingly positive. Participants displayed a range of emotions from joy to nostalgic sorrow, all of which are important in acknowledging and processing their past experiences. This emotional engagement is a key component in maintaining mental health in dementia patients.

3. Sensory Enrichment
The immersive nature of VR provides a rich sensory experience that is often difficult to achieve in typical care settings. This stimulation can help maintain sensory skills that dementia might otherwise diminish.

4. Social Interaction
VR experiences can be shared with others, including caregivers, family members, and fellow patients. This shared experience not only helps reduce feelings of isolation among dementia patients but also encourages social interaction, which is beneficial for emotional health.

The Potential of VR Moving Forward in this direction has demonstrated the significant benefits it can offer in dementia care, particularly in enriching the patients’ quality of life through cognitive engagement and emotional and sensory stimulation.

It is essential to consider how VR can be integrated more fully into regular care routines. Key considerations include:
Customizability: Tailoring VR experiences to individual histories and preferences to maximize relevance and emotional impact.
Accessibility: Ensuring VR setups are easy to use and accessible for all patients, regardless of their technological skills or physical abilities.
Safety and Comfort: Monitoring the effects of VR to ensure that it does not overwhelm patients and adjusting the length and intensity of sessions as needed.
Research and Collaboration: Continuing to research the impacts of VR and working collaboratively with technology developers, caregivers, and healthcare professionals to refine and optimize its use.