UK researchers suggest that technology can greatly improve quality of life and, if properly developed, can be a personalized tool to care for patients with dementia.
“VRs clearly have positive benefits for patients with dementia, their families and carers. It provides a richer and more satisfying quality of life than is otherwise available, with many positive results, ”said Jim Ang, MS, BSc, PhD, study author and senior lecturer at the University of Kent. “Further research can further evaluate the features of the virtual environments that will benefit patients and use VR even more effectively.” T
Investigators looked to determine the impact of VR on dementia patients in a psychiatric hospital to see if technology could influence patients' quality of life. The study received ethical approval from the psychiatric hospital and the UK National Health Services (NHS) research committee.
Data investigators collected over a period of 2 weeks from 45 patients with moderate intensity dementia, including interviews and qualitative and quantitative observations. A researcher looked after people with dementia as usual for 15 minutes before the start of the VR session and recorded “pre-exposure” quantitative measures.
Patients were then asked to use VR in a room within the ward and a menu of virtual environments to give them a selection from. The 5 options available were cathedral, forest, sandy beach, rocky beach, and landscape. Subsequently, patients participated in semi-structured interviews and were returned as usual and the patient was observed for 15 minutes after that point to record “post-exposure” quantitative measures.
The carer who supported the patient during the intervention also took part in a semi-structured interview. The same procedure was repeated over two weeks later. The researcher collected measures on Anti-Change Scale Reactors on hand for Neurological Rating and Observed Feelings Scale for the exposures before, during, and post-VR. In addition, researchers carried out qualitative observations during the sessions, which monitored physical interactions between the patient and the mounted exhibition.
In total, 8 patients aged between 41 and 88 years, living with dementia including Alzheimer's and Hungtington, were included in the study for a total of 16 sessions. Following the analyzes, investigators found that VR could have an impact on the patient's life but not only helped to recall past memories, but would reduce aggression and improve interactions with their carers.
Investigators found that VR helped patients to remember older memories by providing a new stimulus that was difficult to achieve, due to ill health or inaccessibility within their environment. The authors noted that encouraging these memories provided positive mental stimulation to patients and allowed their caregivers to learn more and improve their social interaction with patients.
Ang and other authors wrote that further and more studies were needed to further validate their findings, but the early indications are that the NC has great potential to improve the quality of life in patients with dementia. In addition, as technology progresses, virtual environments can be specifically designed for individual patients.
This study, “Delivering Outdoors: Providing Accessible Experiences through VR for People with Dementia in Locked Psychiatric Hospitals,” is published in the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computer Systems.
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