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Taking ‘A walk through dementia’: exploring care home practitioners’ experiences of using a virtual reality tool to support dementia awareness

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 July 2021

Ben Hicks*
Affiliation:
Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Centre for Dementia Studies, Brighton, UK
Irma Konovalova
Affiliation:
Ageing and Dementia Research Centre, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, UK
Kirsten Myers
Affiliation:
Ageing and Dementia Research Centre, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, UK
Liz Falconer
Affiliation:
Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, UK
Michele Board
Affiliation:
Faculty of Health and Social Care, Bournemouth University, Bournemouth, UK
*
*Corresponding author. Email: b.hicks@bsms.ac.uk

Abstract

Emerging research has outlined the possibility for virtual reality (VR) experiences, which situate users into the perspective of someone living with dementia, to enhance dementia awareness. Currently, there is limited VR research that engages care home practitioners. It is imperative this population has high levels of dementia education given their requirements to provide care and support to residents, many of whom will be living with the condition. This paper reports on an exploratory qualitative study designed to elicit the experiences of care home practitioners who engaged with the VR application: ‘A walk through dementia’. Twenty practitioners, across four care homes in the United Kingdom, watched the VR scenarios and provided their views on the experience and the potential for the VR tool to be developed into a wider training programme to support dementia awareness. Data were collected via focus group discussions. Following an inductive thematic analysis, we constructed three themes. These suggested participants perceived the VR application offered them a convincing and immersive experience that was insightful and evocative, and provided ‘next-level’ dementia-awareness training that enabled them to reflect on care practices. Although the findings highlight important challenges for practitioners and developers wishing to use VR within dementia care, they suggest this application may be an engaging experiential learning tool that can provide care home staff with deeper cognitive and emotional awareness of living with dementia. Further work, drawing on these preliminary insights, is required to ensure the VR tool can be incorporated into a training programme that can positively contribute to the ‘dementia-friendly communities’ agenda.

Type
Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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