The very nature of Alzheimer’s disease often causes stress and anxiety. When faces or places don’t look familiar, it can be frightening and isolating. It’s a difficult situation for seniors and their friends and family.
The unpredictability of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia also makes it a difficult disease for family caregivers to navigate. A senior loved one with Alzheimer’s may start the day feeling happy and positive. As the day turns to night, sundowning syndrome may cause agitation and even anger.
Dementia experts say keeping older adults engaged in meaningful activity may be the secret to calming anxiety and restlessness. However, it can be difficult to find activities that allow older adults to feel successful while considering memory impairment and coordination or mobility difficulties.
This is why the idea of using virtual reality in dementia care is gaining in popularity.
What Is Virtual Reality?
If you aren’t familiar with virtual reality (VR), it is a broad term that encompasses everything from three-dimensional games teenagers play online to programs used to train professionals, such as police officers and airline pilots.
VR participants wear a headset and goggles that work together to simulate a situation or environment. For example, the police might set up a scenario where an officer is responding to a terrorist threat. VR can aid in training them how to respond to the situation.
Many researchers believe virtual reality can help caregivers conquer a common challenge: helping people with dementia engage with their environment and feel joyful.
VR and Dementia Care
Memory impairment, especially short-term memory loss, is common among adults with many forms of dementia. It makes it difficult to maintain a conversation, play games, or even enjoy a movie.
While short-term memory may be gone, long-term memory might remain. That’s where VR can help. Virtual reality can allow a senior to be transported to a time in life that looks and sounds familiar.
One program, The Wayback, is connecting people with dementia to virtual reality. For co-founder Dan Cole, The Wayback’s mission is personal. Dan’s father had Alzheimer’s. He watched helplessly as the disease robbed his father’s memory and communication skills. Dan’s goal was to make it easy for families to use familiar photos and props from a senior’s past to create short virtual reality experiences.
Another virtual reality platform for families of seniors with dementia to explore is Rendever. Their custom reminiscence tools allow an older adult to virtually revisit cherished times and favorite destinations, such as their childhood home or their wedding. It can also be used to help the person check items off their bucket list. If a senior never made it to the Grand Canyon or the Eiffel Tower, you can use Rendever to help them get there.
Visit the Physician through Virtual Reality
If you’ve ever struggled to take a loved one with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia to a doctor’s appointment, you’ll appreciate the idea of using VR to take the place of an in-person visit. Instead of requiring an already-overwhelmed caregiver to interrupt the senior’s day to bring them to the doctor, VR brings the office to them.
It is more than just a simple Skype call. Virtual physician appointments utilize tools like a digital stethoscope to listen to a patient’s heart or a digital otoscope to check their ears.
Memory Care at Five Star Senior Living
At Five Star Senior Living communities, we take an innovative approach to memory care. Our goal is to use old and new practices to allow seniors with dementia to live their best, most independent lives.
You can learn more by scheduling a personal tour. Contact the Five Star community nearest you or call (853) 457-8271 to set up a time!