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Virtual Calm: Using Virtual Reality (VR) Videos to Reduce Dementia Distress

What’s the challenge?

Persons with dementia often experience neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as aggression, agitation, anxiety, depression and apathy. These behaviours can cause high distress for the individual and their caregivers. Non-pharmacological strategies may be a valuable approach to supporting individuals with dementia and their caregivers. The use of distraction techniques is commonly suggested to minimize responsive behaviours.

What did we do?

Persons with dementia often experience neuropsychiatric symptoms, such as aggression, agitation, anxiety, depression and apathy. These behaviours can cause high distress for the individual and their caregivers. Non-pharmacological strategies may be a valuable approach to supporting individuals with dementia and their caregivers. The use of distraction techniques is commonly suggested to minimize responsive behaviours.

What have we found?

Results from the CMAI showed no significant changes in agitation behaviours after the VR intervention. Overall, caregivers did not find VR to be a useful tool at home to manage responsive behaviours presented by their loved ones. Caregivers believed there could be potential for VR use in the home if the following conditions are met:

  • Headset/device design modifications
  • Availability of personalized videos for users co-designed with caregivers
  • Incorporating users’ personal history into videos
  • VR was a positive experience for one family, but there is not enough data to suggest that it impacted responsive behaviours in this study. Future research should explore the ways in which VR technology can be simplified and co-designed to align with the needs of caregivers and clients.

Project partners

Project Funders

Project Contact

Dr. Sandra McKay, PhD
Director of Research
VHA Home HealthCare
smckay@vha.ca