Virtual Reality Simulation to Increase Caregiver Empathy

Senior man wearing virtual reality headset while sitting in a chair

Award Date: 2017

Project Lead(s): Lisa Sokoloff, Manager Training & Simulation

Project Title: Virtual Reality (VR) Dementia Simulation

What is the issue?

People with dementia may exhibit behaviours in response to unmet needsCaregivers may have trouble understanding and appreciating why these responsive behaviours occur. As a result, responsive behaviours may lower the quality of life of people living with dementia as well as their caregivers.  

What did we do?

We partnered with a virtual reality company to film 360-degree video of a typical interaction between a person with dementia and their caregiver. The video was about an older man with dementia and his caregiver getting ready to go to an appointment. Our goal was to see if the virtual reality video would help caregivers have more empathy towards people with dementia and if it could be a useful educational tool. Thirty-three caregivers experienced the five-minute video. We evaluated their empathy scores before and after viewing it using questionnaire and an interview.  

What did we find?

Caregivers enjoyed the virtual reality video and said it was realisticTheir empathy scores did not change significantly because they were high to begin with. However, in the interviews, many said their empathy had increasedThe virtual reality video was less effective in increasing empathy among caregivers with more years of experience. Caregivers provided feedback on ways to enhance and improve the immersive experience.