Virtual reality (VR) technology can enhance the quality of life for people with dementia by helping them to recall past memories, reduce aggression and improve interactions with caregivers, says a study.
The technology helped patients recall old memories by providing new stimuli difficult to achieve, due to ill health, or inaccessible within a secure environment, said the team from the University of Kent in the UK.
These memories not only provided positive mental stimulation for the patients but also helped their caregivers learn more about their lives before care, thereby improving their social interaction.
“VR can clearly have positive benefits for patients with dementia, their families and caregivers. It provides a richer and more satisfying quality of life than is otherwise available, with many positive outcomes,” said Jim Ang, Professor at the University of Kent.
For the study, the researchers picked eight patients aged between 41 and 88 who are living with dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease.
Each patient used a VR headset to ‘visit’ one of five virtual environments of a cathedral, a forest, a sandy beach, a rocky beach and a countryside scene.
The sessions were monitored with feedback gathered from patients and their caregivers.
The patients also demonstrated their own choices during the experiment, with some keen to explore different VEs within a session, while others explored the same environment repeatedly.
“With further research it will be possible to evaluate the elements of virtual environments that benefit patients and use VR even more effectively,” Jim Ang added.