RENO, Nev. (News 4-Fox 11) — Stone Valley Assisted Living and Memory Care's (SVALMC) facility in Reno are using virtual reality to help residents with their memory and stress during COVID-19.
SVALMC is home to around 45 residents and most of them suffer from dementia, anxiety or depression.
Virtual reality was introduced to residents two months ago before the Governor's directives went into place, and SVALMC said the technology has become even more important now than it was before.
Usually, residents have a sustained routine that includes nature drives to keep the mind moving, jog the memory, and reinforce the routine. With a handful of VR headsets, SVALMC is able to bring reality into their homes and continue to keep the mind active and curious.
Sometimes residents explore Google Maps to visit their favorite places in Reno and others use it to visit old memories -- such as an old home, according to SVALMC.
What they (residents) are seeing and noticing very quickly are family members are not coming to see them. For them to get past that, the anxiety that causes, using this virtual reality program has really been amazing. To see a difference in folks and just their stress level, their anxiety, depression all positive things that are happening -- that reduction in their depression, said Tim Grafton, Executive Director of SVALMC.
In one case, Grafton recalled a woman being brought to a beach, via VR, and then being able to fully recall a memory she had forgotten. The woman was able to talk about the VR beach's relation to a beach day she had with her daughter years ago and was even able to recall fine details about the day.
Grafton explained why VR seems to be doing more than just keeping the mind active during trying times, "Most of our residents, dementia wise, you know that old saying what you learn first is the last to go. It takes them back to a time that is just this crystal clear kind of like a sense of smell can make you remember something of a date and a time and place. So, when they see this you just see it you know I mean just to watch them and their expressions instantly change. I mean you just see the cognition fire up and they go and then down memory lane they go."