Virtual Reality Is Now Being Used To Help People With Dementia

Modern technology has been used for years to address challenges faced by seniors. Nintendo Wii's motion gaming technology, which allows users to play virtual tennis and engage in other virtual activities, became quite popular in nursing homes as a way to get residents to exercise. Microsoft's motion gaming sensor, Kinect, has helped patients recover from painful medical procedures. In addition, numerous wearable and smart appliance technologies are being created to allow seniors to live at home rather than moving to a long-term care facility.

Now virtual reality is helping seniors who struggle with loneliness, depression and even dementia. A recent article in the Washington Post explored this development. The article focuses on a physician in the San Francisco Bay area, Sonya Kim, who uses virtual reality headsets to treat lonely and depressed seniors.

She has found that the therapy makes a dramatic impact on her patients' lives. "It lifts the moods of those patients who are so anxious and bored or depressed because they think no one cares about them," said Kim. "We've brought beautiful places to seniors who can't go anywhere." Kim has seen unresponsive or violent patients change dramatically after only a few virtual reality sessions.

One male dementia patient in particular stands out in Kim's mind. The patient was always hunched over and continuously anxious. He never took part in group sessions, choosing instead to sit by himself in the corner of the room. However, when he donned a virtual reality headset, he became more alert, relaxed and engaged with the scenes being depicted in the headset. He even sang along with one of the scenes he was watching. Upon viewing a video of the man's reaction to therapy, his wife nearly cried.

Kim has received testimonials from the relatives of patients, as well as caregivers, who report that the relaxing effects and other benefits of virtual reality sessions can last for weeks. In the case of the dementia patient who started singing during one of his sessions, the man's family told Kim that they were no longer worried about him pulling his hair out or striking his caregivers.

So why does this technology work? Even Kim is not absolutely certain, but she has a theory: Immersion in a virtual reality world stimulates patients' brains in a number of ways. She hypothesizes that virtual reality allows some of her patients' neural pathways to be reactivated. She is now trying to raise money for her two companies, Aloha VR and One Caring Team, to expand their virtual reality programs and to work with other organizations that are exploring different applications of virtual reality.



You can also watch a video, posted on the Alzheimer's News Today website, which shows dementia patients using a virtual reality headset that surrounds them with peaceful settings like beaches and forests. Here is the link to that video:

Power Over Incapacity-- The Durable Power Of Attorney

From a legal standpoint, incapacity is defined as the inability to make sound decisions regarding one's personal or financial affairs. Many of those declared incapacitated are seniors who have fallen into a coma or suffer from Alzheimer's disease or other mentally debilitating illnesses. Failing to plan for the possibility of incapacity in advance can create major problems for seniors and their loved ones, particularly with regard to paying for medical care and managing assets. This is why I recommend that all of our clients have us design a customized durable power of attorney. Here are some of the most important reasons to have your own power of attorney.

If you become incapacitated, you choose the person who makes financial decisions on your behalf, not the court. Without a power of attorney, the court will appoint a guardian or conservator to manage your affairs in the event of incapacity. The person named by the court could very well be someone you would never have wanted to make important decisions on your behalf. In addition, the guardianship and conservatorship processes are expensive, time-consuming and stressful for members of your family.

With a durable power of attorney, you are able to name an "agent" to make decisions on your behalf. You have the power to decide what types of decisions your agent can make. That is, you determine how much authority your agent will have over your affairs. The agent's authority can be rather broad or extremely limited--the decision is yours. You can also choose to name multiple agents and mandate that they must work together or authorize them to work independently. It is a good idea to name an alternate agent in case your first choice is unable to serve due to illness or other reasons.

A durable power of attorney helps prevent questions and disputes about your wishes.

You've no doubt heard about costly court battles over what a person "would have wanted" before he or she became incapacitated. With a properly designed durable power of attorney, together with other advance directives, you can help ensure that your wishes regarding financial management will be carried out.

A durable power of attorney gives your agent the legal authority necessary to obtain services on your behalf.

Your agent must frequently make arrangements to pay bills, manage bank accounts and other assets, and more. Without a properly drafted durable power of attorney, many companies will not provide the information or services that your agent needs to carry out your wishes. In addition, a durable power of attorney gives your agent the authority to make planning decisions and transactions that can help make you eligible for public assistance programs.

A durable power of attorney provides you and your family with greater peace of mind.

With a power of attorney and other advance directives in place, you will enjoy the peace of mind that comes from knowing your wishes regarding the management of your assets will be honored. In addition, your family will be spared the stress of making important decisions on your behalf without knowing what you would have wanted. I welcome the opportunity to design a customized durable power of attorney to ensure your wishes are carried out if you become incapacitated.

I can also help you choose the ideal person to serve as your agent.