Home care agency adopts VR tech

A care home agency in Worcestershire has adopted virtual reality (VR) technology for staff and families to step into the reality of a person living with dementia.

The virtual reality headset, called Elara, allows the user to gain a real insight into what challenges are faced by those living with dementia, by allowing them to experience it first-hand.

Ashwell Home Care Services invested in the headset for its staff to help to “understand the reality of the condition – which will lead to a greater understanding, more empathy and a much more harmonious life for all concerned”.

Claire Surr, Professor of Dementia Studies and Director of the Centre for Dementia Research at Leeds Beckett University, co-curated ELARA’s new training programme. She: “Dementia affects everyone differently and can be a very distressing experience.

“Staff must have an understanding of how people with dementia might see the world, and the impacts of what other people say and do, as well as the physical environment on the person’s wellbeing and behaviour. Research indicates experiential dementia training can help increase their empathy and understanding, potentially improving the quality of care staff deliver. We hope VR will offer an exciting avenue for providing experiential learning opportunities.”

Deb Ashwell, Ashwell Home Care Services, commented: “This is an exciting development, and we are proud to be one of the first businesses in Worcestershire to deploy this method of learning for our incredible team. Every day, we are helping people with dementia – so having a greater understanding of the realities of their world will help enormously.”

If successful, the tech could be used across the wider community, and to train new staff at the home care service.