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  • Writer's pictureThe Care Company

Reaching Seniors with Dementia Effectively – Virtually

Picture for a second how it would feel to struggle with the cognitive obstacles of Alzheimer's disease. The family and friends who are closest to you are now unfamiliar. The words that would roll off your tongue without a second thought are now just beyond your grasp. In fact, the whole world as you once knew it has turned completely upside down, leaving you longing for a familiar foothold.

However, one of the kindnesses imparted by dementia is the long-term memories that oftentimes remain intact long after short-term memories have vanished. It is why connecting seniors with dementia to the past is often a remarkably effective way to engage them – through music, movies, photos, and reminiscing. Now we can add a high-tech tool to the ways we can help seniors mentally engage with the past that’s showing impressive outcomes in older adults with dementia: virtual reality.

Skip Rizzo, director for medical virtual reality at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, has been making use of the technology to help veterans dealing with PTSD. He is now broadening his reach to seniors – starting with his own 89-year-old mother, whose wonderful reaction to a virtual visit to Rome confirmed exactly how effective the technology can be for older adults.

Rizzo shares an experience in which he visited a senior living home where a small group of residents were simply sitting around a table in silence, until he began showing them flashcard-like pictures of objects from the past. The change in the atmosphere was electric, as the older adults began sharing memories with each other. With the capacity of low-tech tools such as simple pictures to produce joy for older adults, imagine the opportunities available to us now with high-tech options like virtual reality!

The advantage of virtual reality for seniors with dementia goes beyond just bringing enjoyment and boosting memory, including:

Improved Health Care

The distraction of virtual reality is proving to be a powerful tool for reducing pain for older adults. It can also be used to improve balance and other motor skills and improve spatial reasoning. It can even help doctors detect health issues by seeing how seniors respond in various activities and games.

Heightened Socialization

We all know that older adult isolation is a contributing aspect in a number of physical and mental health problems. A recent study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine revealed that up to one in four seniors are feeling socially isolated. Want to explore creative options to improve quality of life for a senior in your life? Reach out to our home care team at (416) 422-2273 to find out more about our in-home assistance in Toronto and surrounding areas!

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