Virtual Reality Helping Caregivers Understand Dementia

dementia virtual reality

Vinette Tine tries out HouseWorks' VR training. (Mike Macklin/WBZ NewsRadio)

NEWTON, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Dealing with dementia is a challenge not just for the families of persons living with it, but also for the professional caregivers who treat dementia patients.

Now, Newton-based company HouseWorks is using virtual reality to train caregivers in a realistic, sensitive way.

The VR training—which involves donning dark goggles, heavy gloves, and a headset in a dark room with a flashing strobe light—is designed to mimic the limited sensation faculties that people with dementia deal with every day.

HouseWorks Founder and CEO Andrea Cohen said the training helps bridge the divide that may exist between caregivers and their patients.

"They're living in parallel universes in some ways, and we need to be able to help them connect," Cohen told WBZ NewsRadio's Mike Macklin.

Cohen said the training helps caregivers to have more patience for what their patients are going through.

"Rather than getting frustrated, they realize what the client is struggling with, and they're just more patient," she said. "They're more empathetic, they're more passionate, and they have a better perspective."

Vinette Tine is a certified nurse's assistant who has worked with dementia patients for seven years. She understands her clients' struggles, but after trying the VR training, she experienced virtual dementia firsthand.

"I totally forgot what I was told to do," she said. "I remember bits and pieces. I tried doing it, but it was all mixed. Things we take for granted, picking things up, putting things down, it was the most difficult thing just now. Your mind was like, all mixed up."

Just a few minutes in virtual dementia trying to perform everyday tasks like counting pills gave Tine a new perspective she says will make her a better caregiver.

WBZ NewsRadio's Mike Macklin reports

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