Going beyond goggles: A Dallas senior community explores virtual reality with dementia patients

Going beyond goggles: A Dallas senior community explores virtual reality with dementia patients

The space stretching before 91-year-old Russell Craig seems endless as he gazes at galaxies and swirling constellations. Thousands of miles above the Earth, it turns its head only to be received by satellites and stars.

But in reality, Craig is sitting in a chair with his feet firmly planted on the floor. While the space may be remote, for residents of The Preston of the Park Cities, it’s just the click of a button.

The community of seniors in Dallas has been introducing VR headsets into their weekly activities for nearly two years now. Residents can do practically anything within the confines of technology, from playing sports, to flying through the mountains, to walking through the wreckage of the Titanic. In addition to the recreational aspects, staff in the community say it is helpful in evoking memories in residents with dementia.

“We had one resident in memory care who was in the military and had serious behavioral issues,” said Lana Francois, who helps with recreational activities at the facility. “Every time we put him in flight VR, this calmed him down. You can see it with the touch of a finger — you can see it change.”

The Oculus Quest technology aims to engage residents regardless of their physical abilities, but has also been shown to aid in dexterity, focus and focus. A study led by Dr Chi Siang Ang found that the virtual experience provides a “calming effect” for dementia patients, caused by a feeling of immersion in a virtual environment. On the contrary, the active participation of virtual reality technology has helped to promote more meaningful participation, even for short periods of time.

“We used to play Wii games on it, although it took residents a minute to get used to, so it will be about the same with any new games we introduce,” said Debbie Dickinson, Director of Community Life. “Then they will argue to try to use it when they realize they can move on and do whatever they want with it.”

While Craig may be new to seeing space up close and personal, he was eager to do it again.

“I have a flight simulator on my TV and it’s like virtual reality,” Craig said. “It’s not easy because I haven’t seen how to use the controls. But I suppose the kids do.

“I can do it if they can,” he added.

Mark Denzen, executive director of the Dallas and Northeast Texas Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, believes that virtual reality is like music theory when stimulating the brain in engaging ways. While he saw positive results from the technology, he explained that it is only a way to help patients deal with dementia, not cure it.

“With the brain as complex as it is, I think the standard thinking behind what we can do is probably limitless,” Denzen said. “I think as science and technology collide, there could be a truly unique partnership to help individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s.”

The usefulness of VR in dementia is a new concept in the world of medicine, but studies are showing positive results. An article by Dr. Laura Appel and Dr. Jennifer Campos in 2021 reviewed 18 different virtual reality studies of dementia patients, with 89.5% of the included studies reporting a positive emotional response and 73.7% targeting higher life attributes for the patients involved.

Dr. Jin Ryong Kim, assistant professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Dallas, agrees that this technology has the potential to benefit from similar treatments.

“I think people are looking to touch and virtual reality because they have the potential to make patients feel that it’s real,” Kim said. “Realism, immersion, interaction – these kinds of things can make a difference. Technology goes that way and one application is this medical field.”

Seeing more than just its potential for dementia sufferers, Dickerson says staff at The Preston of the Park Cities are trying to turn the use of virtual reality into a group activity to keep residents engaged while exploring ways to help those with behavioral problems. It appreciates its ability to be geared towards the individual population by means of unique simulations and games. François sees its reinforcing effect on dementia patients dealing with depression, and brings smiles to their faces.

“It can be a chore, but once they get used to it, they love it and are excited to have the chance to do it again,” Dickerson said.

Claire Tweedy wrote this story as part of her contribution to High School Journalism 101, the student mentor program for journalism at the Dallas Morning News School.

#goggles #Dallas #senior #community #explores #virtual #reality #dementia #patients

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.