VR&R: Providing Caregiver Respite by Managing BPSDs and Improving QoL in People With Dementia Using Immersive VR-Therapy

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University Health Network, Toronto


Not yet enrolling




Behavioral: Immersive VR Therapy in Head-Mounted Device (HMD)

Study type


Funder types




Details and patient eligibility


The goal of this interventional trial is to learn about how immersive Virtual Reality (VR) therapy can be used at home by individuals with dementia, with assistance from their informal (e.g., friend/family) caregivers. The main question it aims to answer are: Can caregivers receive quality respite time by using VR-therapy at home with their loved ones with dementia? Does this intervention reduce feelings of burden and improve well-being for caregivers? Does VR-therapy help to manage behavioural and psychological symptoms (e.g., mood, apathy, agitation) and improve quality of life for individuals with dementia? What types of VR "medium" (passive, interactive, or co-operative) are most effective for achieving the above objectives? Participant pairs will be asked to: Take part in an initial at-home VR technology training session and complete a series of brief questionnaires (e.g., health history/technology use, well-being/quality of life, symptoms of dementia) Use "VR&R" (VR Rest & Relaxation Therapy) for a period of 3 weeks (30 minute sessions, desired frequency), and answer a brief set of questions after each VR&R session Provide feedback on the VR&R intervention in semi-structured interview with the researcher and answer additional questionnaires at a 1-week follow-up During VR&R sessions, participants with dementia will have the opportunity to choose to watch (1) immersive 360-degree videos (e.g., of a live performance, or beach), (2) play a simple game (e.g., using a hand controller to water plants), or (3) experience VR together with a researcher, who will join the session remotely. Caregivers will be asked to assist their loved one with dementia to use VR&R by helping to put on the VR headset, selecting a VR experience through a user-friendly web-based application, and remaining nearby to supervise and provide assistance as needed. During VR&R sessions, caregivers may use this time to take a personal break or complete short tasks (e.g., make a cup of coffee, have an uninterrupted phone call).

Full description

Caregivers of individuals with dementia experience twice as much distress as those providing care for other seniors. This burden is particularly common when the person with dementia displays aggression. A number of recent studies have indicated that Virtual Reality (VR)-therapy is a safe, acceptable, and enjoyable non-pharmacological intervention for individuals with dementia, with potential to manage symptoms and promote quality of life. However, further research is needed to determine how to best design VR-therapy for this purpose. Moreover, it is not yet known whether VR is helpful for providing respite for caregivers. In this study, the investigators aim to determine whether "VR&R", an immersive VR-therapy, is helpful for providing caregiver respite and managing symptoms of dementia (mood, apathy, agitation). Additionally, this study will explore what type of VR "medium" is most effective for achieving these outcomes. The VR&R intervention includes a user-friendly web-application that caregivers can use to select among three different multi-sensory mediums for their loved one with dementia to experience (1) 360-degree videos that simulate real-life environments (the ocean, watching a ballet), (2) a simple and rewarding game, and (3) co-operative, where a researcher will join and interact remotely. Participants will use VR&R at home for up to 30 minutes at a time, for three weeks. Outcomes will be evaluated using mixed methods (questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, observations, objective metrics of VR usage). The investigators predict that the intervention will provide caregivers with uninterrupted time to complete brief tasks that they may not have been able to otherwise, improving well-being and reducing feelings of burden. This study's findings will have implications for designing and implementing home-based VR interventions, including which types of VR experiences keep individuals with dementia engaged the longest, are easiest to use, and are seen as most beneficial by end-users.


30 estimated patients




65+ years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion and exclusion criteria

Inclusion Criteria: People with dementia

  • Individuals who are 65 years of age or older
  • Individuals living at home with a family caregiver
  • Individuals diagnosed with dementia

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Individuals with open wounds on face (sutured lacerations exempted)
  • Individuals with a history of seizures or epilepsy
  • Individuals with a pacemaker
  • Individuals with head trauma or stroke leading to their current admission
  • Individuals with cervical conditions or injuries that would make it unsafe for them to use the VR headset
  • Individuals who identify as being legally blind
  • Individuals with alcohol related dementia/ Korsakoff syndrome.
  • Individuals who have a Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) as Substitute Decision Maker (SDM)
  • Individuals who cannot speak and understand English

Caregiver inclusion criteria:

  • Individuals who identify as a primary caregiver for the PwD
  • Individuals who have access to the internet through a device (computer, tablet, or mobile phone) that can be used during the study

Caregiver exclusion criteria:

  • Individuals who cannot speak and understand English
  • Individuals who are cognitively unable to provide informed consent for themselves
  • Identify as legally blind

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Single Group Assignment


None (Open label)

30 participants in 1 patient group

VR&R Therapy
Other group
Recruited dyads will include one person diagnosed with dementia and their informal caregiver (i.e., family/friend). The caregiver will assist their loved ones with dementia to use VR-therapy at home. Caregivers may use the time while their loved ones are engaged for respite, remaining nearby to supervise and assist.
Behavioral: Immersive VR Therapy in Head-Mounted Device (HMD)

Trial contacts and locations



Central trial contact

Lora Appel, PhD; Lora Appel, PhD

Data sourced from clinicaltrials.gov

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