A virtual reality intervention to improve the understanding and empathy for people with dementia in informal caregivers: results of a pilot study

Aging Ment Health. 2018 Sep;22(9):1115-1123. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2017.1348470. Epub 2017 Jul 10.


Objective: Informal caregivers often experience psychological distress due to the changing functioning of the person with dementia they care for. Improved understanding of the person with dementia reduces psychological distress. To enhance understanding and empathy in caregivers, an innovative technology virtual reality intervention Through the D'mentia Lens (TDL) was developed to experience dementia, consisting of a virtual reality simulation movie and e-course. A pilot study of TDL was conducted.

Methods: A pre-test-post-test design was used. Informal caregivers filled out questionnaires assessing person-centeredness, empathy, perceived pressure from informal care, perceived competence and quality of the relationship. At post-test, additional questions about TDL's feasibility were asked.

Results: Thirty-five caregivers completed the pre-test and post-test. Most participants were satisfied with TDL and stated that TDL gave more insight in the perception of the person with dementia. The simulation movie was graded 8.03 out of 10 and the e-course 7.66. Participants significantly improved in empathy, confidence in caring for the person with dementia, and positive interactions with the person with dementia.

Conclusion: TDL is feasible for informal caregivers and seems to lead to understanding of and insight in the experience of people with dementia. Therefore, TDL could support informal caregivers in their caregiving role.

Keywords: Dementia; e-learning course; empathy; informal caregivers; virtual reality.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Caregivers / education*
  • Dementia / nursing*
  • Empathy / physiology*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Virtual Reality*
  • Young Adult