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CJE SeniorLife and Elderwerks Partner with VR Vision to Develop Dementia Care Training Program Using Virtual Reality Technology

Chicago-based nonprofits CJE SeniorLife and Elderwerks Educational Services have partnered with Toronto-based virtual reality company VR Vision to launch Dementia Reality, the first virtual reality dementia program that combines skills training with real-life obstacles in a virtual environment. Dementia Reality is a new educational tool for professionals caring for older adults with dementia. Tapping into the power of technology for training purposes, this program can benefit the healthcare system as well as older adults with dementia and their loved ones. The goal is to have more empathetic caregivers and happier, engaged clients.

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“Dementia Reality brings multiple senses to training, which, as we have learned, is a far more effective way to train and engage employees, so they are confident and successful in their jobs,” said Dan Fagin, CJE SeniorLife’s President, and CEO. “CJE has always been committed to serving older adults and their families, and we expect to see exceptionally positive outcomes for both the trainees and the clients they care for with this new educational tool. We are thrilled to partner with VR Vision to help fulfill our mission of enhancing the quality of life of older adults through this outstanding program.”

The new virtual educational model utilizes technology powered by VR Vision to immerse professional caregivers and better prepare them to help clients living with dementia. Through various courses, trainees experience first-person simulations by shadowing a caregiver and then seeing the same scenario from the perspective of an individual with dementia.

Catherine Samatas, Director of Engagement and Innovative Programming at CJE SeniorLife, spearheaded Dementia Reality with Elderwerks: “This type of programming is an impactful addition to training that is currently available for caregivers. Being delivered via virtual reality is so powerful.”

What sets Dementia Reality apart is how this training emphasizes the feelings of a caregiver with the plight of a client to build empathy and a trusting relationship. “Being able to both see and discuss in real time the impact that caregiving has on a person living with dementia is what makes us so unique and what makes Dementia Reality such a powerful learning tool,” said Samatas. Training modules include simple tasks like waking a resident to more challenging care like showering and helping to manage delusions and redirect behaviors such as eloping or hoarding. This allows the participants to not only learn correct care techniques, but also observe the impact that they have in their daily roles. Participating in the Dementia Reality program has been an emotional experience for many participants as they reflect on how their care affects people living with dementia.

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Dementia Reality® utilizes the latest in 360 video technology, delivered in virtual reality to create impeccably realistic, interactive content. We also carefully considered the process of trainers conducting group sessions and developed a web-based application for trainers to maintain full control of sessions and provide assistance in an easy way.

“Creating immersive training experiences is our passion at VR Vision, and in working with CJE SeniorLife and Elderwerks, we developed soft skills training for both healthcare workers and seniors living with dementia. This has driven a positive impact in both training readiness and bottom line ROI for the organizations and Dementia Reality program,” said Roni Cerga, CEO at VR Vision.

Each chapter opens with a real-life situation in the virtual reality setting. The person-centered focus is not only on the client but also on the caregiver’s concerns. Group discussions among the trainees and trainers are part of the overall curriculum. Trainees are eligible to earn continuing education units (CEUs) after the completion of the course.

“Dementia Reality trainees will gain a real understanding of the world of a person living with dementia. The immersion into their world shows how someone would feel and react when cared for appropriately and inappropriately,” said Jennifer Prell, SMM-C, Dementia Reality Specialist, and Elderwerks President and Founder. “This education helps caregivers improve their knowledge and quality of care, which creates a better living environment for a person living with dementia.”

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