Dementia Caregiver Training Just Got More Real

Dementia Caregiver Training Just Got More Real

Close your eyes. Muffle your ears. Lay down to sleep. Then imagine you are shaken awake and told to get up for the day. You need your glasses, your hearing aids, your robe, and your slippers, along with a level of consciousness many of us have only after a cup of coffee. Add dementia to this mix, and you have a disoriented, confused perhaps scared, and unhappy reaction to start your day. This is often the life of a person living with dementia who is cared for by a loved one or CNA.

Dementia training experts Elderwerks Educational Services (Elderwerks) and CJE SeniorLife have joined to create many scenarios like this using virtual reality technology in six hours of caregiver training (three with VR, three in-class discussions). Dementia Reality® is a program that emphasizes the feelings of a caregiver with the plight of a patient to build empathy and a trusting relationship.

The Dementia Reality® training program is vividly characterized when the element of dementia is added. “What sets this program apart is from others is that this training is delivered via virtual reality – which is so powerful,” said Cathy Samatas, Director of Engagement and Innovative Programming for CJE SeniorLife.

“Dementia Reality is unique in that it allows the learner to experience empathic and non-emphatic responses to caregiving situations.” said Jeannine Forrest, Ph.D., R.N., Dementia Educator and Care Consultant. “You feel like you are in the room.” “It will be exciting to see how this visual learning will lead to more skilled and compassionate care over time.”
CJE Senior Life and Elderwerks recently invited senior care providers and caregiver instructors to sample the virtual reality training firsthand at their Dementia Reality® product launch on June 9 at Tamarisk NorthShore in Deerfield. Dozens of industry experts donned the virtual reality goggles to immerse themselves in the training experience.

Creators are seeking organizations that would like to train their caregivers with Dementia Reality® during the pilot launch of this educational program. Caregivers will get the whole experience in a six-hour-long, CEU-certified classroom. CJE SeniorLife and Elderwerks seek to train 150 to 200 caregivers by the end of the year so they can substantiate what they believe their virtual reality training brings to the industry:

1.    More satisfied and confident employees who will remain in their jobs
2.    Happier, more engaged patients
3.    Fewer patient injuries and hospitalizations accidents
4.    Less need for psychotropic drugs
5.    Cost savings for the providers, state and Medicare system

Measurements with realistic metrics for providers are currently being established to evaluate these anticipated outcomes.

Dementia Reality® is advanced virtual reality training for caregivers who help dementia patients with activities of daily living. It is a joint venture between two long-standing and well-respected organizations, CJE SeniorLife, a not-for-profit provider of senior living, direct social services, healthcare, and support to Chicago-area residents. Elderwerks Educational Services is also a Chicago-based not-for-profit advisory service offering complementary information, referrals, and guidance to seniors for senior living, home care, support services, and benefits. To learn more about Dementia Reality, visit