Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Touching moment a virtual reality headset helps elderly people with dementia recall precious memories

For people living with dementia, recalling memories can be a frustrating process, but a new virtual reality system is being used as a form of therapy.
The VR system, called VirtuCare, shows users scenes designed to relax them - including a nostalgic beach and forest full of animals - in the hope of jogging memories.

A touching new video shows two elderly people trying out the device, and one even says that using it is 'one of the happiest moments of [her] whole life.'

VirtuCare was designed by Hertfordshire based organisations, Tribemix and Quantum Care.

In the video released by the firm, two elderly people with dementia can be seen trying on the device.

The woman in the video is shown a beach scene, which triggers her memories of time spent on the beach in Scotland. 

She says: 'I'm just so happy to see that beautiful sight.

'It's beautiful beyond compare. 

'It's one of the happiest moments of my whole life.' 

While it was initially created to help people living with dementia, the project is now broadening to be used by a range of patient types, including those with respiratory disorders and elderly care.

The system uses real-time 3D to create experiences that immerse the user, while giving them a level of control in what happens in each scene.

On its website, Tribemix said: 'This is important because, with dementia, in particular, the level of stimulation needs to be very accurately controlled.

'The experience can be too stimulating, or not stimulating enough. So by using 3D, we have been able to perfect these balances to deliver our incredible results.'

VirtuCare is delivered as a package including a VR Ready laptop, an Oculus Rift, 12 VR scenes pre-installed, training and technical support.

The scenes include a beach, a forest full of animals, a luxury yacht overlooking a coral reef and dolphins playing in the sea, an underwater experience of the coral reef and dolphins and even a view of the Earth from the International Space Station set to relaxing piano music.

The kit also includes activity cards to help bring back memories through questions and keywords that the carer or nurse can ask.

Tribemix said: 'We ask a series of open questions in a similar theme to the scene, i.e. What do you remember from visiting the beach as a child? What are your favourite animals? What do you remember about when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon?'

One lady was shown a beach scene through the VR device, and believed her carers had taken her to Whitby where she had first met her husband along the sand of the beach.

And another resident believed he was in Tunisia when shown the same scene, prompting him to tell his carers about his holidays to Hammamet and Seuss as well as horse riding along the beach.

Tribemix is now working to roll the project out across its care home group.
But the virtual reality programme isn't cheap, and costs £3,995 ($5,140) for the full system.

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