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Caring Friends Home Care Uses Virtual Reality To Train Caregivers Of People With Dementia

(The following article was first reported in

Caring Friends Home Care, a home care company in Plymouth Meeting that specializes in patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia, is piloting a program using virtual reality to train its caretakers.

“Virtual reality use is in the nascent stages within this industry, but it has untapped potential because the experience immerses caregivers into an environment that offers a realistic look into the lives of patients who have this devastating condition,” a spokesperson for the care center said.

Starting late this month and continuing into December, healthcare workers at the center will “get an authentic look” into what it’s like to live with dementia through the VR training. The caregivers will enter a room for an eight-minute simulated experience.

The training consists of caregivers entering a room with strobe lights and trying to do tasks while wearing glasses that limits their vision and thick gloves that make it difficult to control movement, which resembles a patient’s potentially damaged depth perception. They’ll also wear headphones that simulate a patient’s increased focus on background noise, and bumpy shoe inserts that simulate nerve damage many dementia patients suffer from.

Caring Friends Home Care is owned by HouseWorks, a home and hospital senior care center based in Boston. The HouseWorks HQ tested out the technology in October, and is now spreading the methodology to its Philly-area location.

Seven caregivers test-drove the technology in Boston, by entering a room and attempting tasks like folding a shirt and put pills back in a bottle, the Boston Globe reported.

“We’re giving them tools in their toolbox, so if one thing doesn’t work they can pull out something else that they learned through this training,” Andrea Cohen, HouseWorks’ founder and CEO, told the Globe. “Rather than getting frustrated with the client, they realize what the client is struggling with and they are just more patient.”

Vinette Tyme, a home health aide who has worked as a caregiver for over a decade, described the experience as “the most difficult thing” and said her “mind was all mixed up.”

“I took things for granted; picking things up, putting things down,” Tyme said. “It makes me feel that no matter how well I can do it, they are struggling,” she told the Globe.