See The World Through Your Loved One’s Eyes: Virtual Reality & Caregiving

We’ve all heard the phrase “put yourself in their shoes." Now it's possible. 

Easier said than done. Caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia is made exponentially more difficult as the disease progresses and regular forms of communication break down, leaving a fragmented puzzle it becomes your task to piece together.

We’re sure, at times, you wish you could see the world as your loved ones does. Rather than asking yourself a steady stream of exhausting questions—Is this helping them? Does this make them feel better? Why isn’t this working?—you might have the chance to get concrete answers with the help of virtual reality.

Virtual Reality is increasing empathy by literally putting you in your loved one’s shoes.

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Aimed at revolutionizing approaches to aging, Virtual Reality (VR) technologies are taking valiant strides to fill the gaps visible in caregiving.

Embodied Labs is one example of this pioneering new trend. They create VR labs in an effort to overhaul aging services workforce training, infusing caregivers with new insights about the caregiving journey through the eyes of the person living with dementia.

The company creates a diverse set of interactive case studies, designed to provide first person perspectives of various conditions: end of life conversations, a journey through Alzheimer’s disease, and more.

Embodied Labs was founded in 2016 by Carrie Shaw, after she completed her masters in Biomedical Visualization. Having cared for her mother since the age of 19, Carrie has seen firsthand the positive impact VR technology can have.

“My mom couldn’t see from the left half of her eyes, and once I used goggles to show her nursing assistants what that was like, they instantly understood why they were having a hard time with some tasks,” Shaw said. “They found ways to care for my mom that worked so much better for both them and my mom.”

What's our take? 

Alz You Need had to opportunity to learn more about this new trend firsthand at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC 2018) this past weekend; we're impressed. VR is not only being used by caregivers, but also young people preparing to interact with the elderly and those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Twenty Chicago high school students participated in a VR simulation as part of the Bringing Art to Life Program. Daniel C. Potts, creator of the Bringing Art to Life Program, a neurologist for the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, and member of Embodied Labs’ advisory board, articulated the visible benefits of VR technology:

“What we’re hearing from the students is that experiencing the virtual reality training before they volunteer improves their empathy and increases enthusiasm for working with the seniors—two documented outcomes of our program. It also may decrease the stigma and their negative attitudes about older people.”

Virtual reality technologies bring the dawn of a new age of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregiving—one where it’s possible to see if what you’re doing is helping, or why it isn’t. You can literally put yourself in your loved one’s shoes, helping you to understand the world as they do, and to understand what they need because of it.