When we typically think of virtual reality, we're prone to recalling fantastical images from science fiction movies that detail worlds outside of reality, projected into our eyes through the magic of science. Considering these kinds of concepts were – until very recently – the stuff of science fiction, it is safe to say we live in an exciting time. 

Everyday advancements in virtual reality are starting to have some valuable and practical applications throughout industries, for example, aged care and health care – and are not merely limited to the gaming and entertainment realms they are most often aligned.

For many patients who are suffering from dementia and other debilitating forms of cognitive and memory impairment, virtual reality technology can and is starting to offer a real-world escape into a new world of possibility. A world where the patient's limitations can be forgotten and their horizons broadened through the astounding visual effects of virtual reality goggles.

Virtual reality could be the future of aged care.Virtual reality could be the future of aged care.

The power of virtual reality

Recently, Australian Ageing Agenda reported from a dementia conference in Sydney that showcased new exploratory findings on virtual reality use amongst a small batch of aged care providers in Australia. These aged care homes that had been using virtual reality technology reported many positive and encouraging findings.

These providers have determined that the use of virtual reality led to a noticeable improvement in the quality of life for many residents living with dementia.

Southern Cross Care Victoria Dementia Care Consultant Ben Gatehouse told the newsroom at the conference about how aged care staff have the potential to be assisted by the use of virtual reality goggles.

"It is terrific if our staff can have a very broad-based approach to managing complex behaviours before going to the use of medications," said Mr. Gatehouse.

The technology is now being considered a long-term option for many facilities, as the new generation of goggles represents a smarter and less risky form of treatment. Mr. Gatehouse explained that many staff members would consider readily using virtual reality goggles before using psychotropic medication on patients.

"Virtual reality goggles are a great opportunity for aged care homes – but also clients living in the community who have dementia. To expand the current suite of lifestyle options available, what we've found in our very small research project is that for some people with dementia (the goggles) can make a real difference in their quality of life – improving entertainment, stimulation and maybe relieving symptoms of boredom" said Mr. Gatehouse.

An advancing toolkit

Non-medical support has been picking up speed when it comes to the harm-reduction of those who have dementia. Research as reported in Rehabilitation Psychology states that even flat-screen video has been shown to have significant therapeutic effects on dementia suffers.

The PARO Therapeutic Robot is also another non-medical form of therapy that has been widely successful for those with dementia. PARO is an advanced interactive robot that improves the socialisation of patients and is shown to have positive psychological outcomes.

Rehabilitation Psychology states that virtual reality builds on the aspects of technologies such as these and goes beyond automating the models of the past to create a new real-life environment for the patient.

While it may be a while off till every aged care facility has its virtual reality goggles, the technology is now out there, improving with each new iteration and each new development. Mirus provides services that help aged care providers optimise their use of the Australian Aged Care Funding Instrument. For more information on how Mirus can help you and your business be the best it can be, don't hesitate to get in touch today.