Can the Mixed Virtual Reality Simulator Into D'mentia Enhance Empathy and Understanding and Decrease Burden in Informal Dementia Caregivers?

Dement Geriatr Cogn Dis Extra. 2018 Dec 6;8(3):453-466. doi: 10.1159/000494660. eCollection 2018 Sep-Dec.


Objective: To evaluate whether the mixed virtual reality dementia simulator training Into D'mentia increased informal caregivers' understanding for people with dementia, their empathy, sense of competence, relationship quality with the care receiver, and/or decreased burden, depression, and anxiety.

Methods: A quasi-experimental longitudinal study with an intervention group (n = 145) and a control group (n = 56) was conducted. All participants were informal caregivers of people with dementia. They completed six questionnaires and semi-structured interviews 1 week before as well as 1 week, 2.5 months, and 15 months after the training. Data were analyzed on both group and individual level using linear mixed model analyses and Reliable Change Indices.

Results: Eighty-five percent of the participants in the intervention group found the intervention useful; 76% said they had changed their approach to caregiving, and 61% stressed that the intervention had increased their understanding of dementia. No significant differences were found between the two groups over time regarding empathy, sense of competence, relationship quality with the care receiver, burden, depression, and anxiety, at either group or individual level.

Conclusion: Caregivers indicated that the Into D'mentia intervention improved their understanding of dementia, that they had learned to be more patient, to take things more slowly, and to focus on positive aspects of caregiving. However, no significant change was found on the variables assessed via the questionnaires. Future research can consider enriching this intervention with other aspects such as more educational material, more simulations, and group sessions, tailored to the individual caregiver and his/her situation, and examine whether these new interventions yield change on questionnaires. These new, more personalized interventions for dementia caregivers could help caregivers to better understand the persons with dementia they care for and to ultimately enhance the well-being of both caregivers and persons with dementia.

Keywords: Caregiving; Dementia; Experiential learning; Informal caregiving; Intervention; Simulation training; Technology.