Nazareth Home staff stepping into elders’ shoes with person-centered virtual reality technology

Those of us who have not experienced memory loss can’t understand Alzheimer’s from the perspective of a person living with the disease. It’s also hard to understand end-of-life circumstances without ever being diagnosed with a terminal illness. Yet our caregivers, nurses and staff face these challenges each day. While always compassionate and caring, there has not been a way to truly put our staff in the shoes of the elder faced with these issues, until now.

Recently, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth awarded a ministry grant to Nazareth Home. This grant funded the purchase of an immersive training platform from Embodied Labs. The software allows our staff to peer into the body and mind of someone confronted with aging issues like cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s or an elder faced with a terminal prognosis.

Through the platform’s virtual reality experiences, our caregivers are immersed in the elders’ perspectives and conditions, helping them better understand the disease or circumstance. The Alzheimer’s training transports the staff into Beatriz’s life, a middle-aged woman, as she advances through a decade of Alzheimer’s disease. The end-of-life training embodies Clay, a 66-year-old veteran with stage IV terminal lung cancer, as he comes to terms with the reality of his diagnosis.

Through this training, our staff will learn what the elder is feeling and explore the physical, spiritual, and mental changes that may occur. This insight empowers our team to provide more effective and empathetic care. Knowing what to expect, how to relate, and how to respond allows us to communicate more clearly, support more confidently and serve with a greater purpose. Real understanding isn’t just about knowing how to care in certain situations; it’s about feelings. Those feelings are what enhance empathy and compassion.

At Nazareth Home, we focus on achieving outstanding person-centered, innovative and compassionate care. We encompass a holistic approach in our healing ministry, which includes social, spiritual and physical wellness. Our partnership with Embodied Labs’ will enhance our ministry by allowing us to step into someone else’s shoes and understand another person’s experience.

Understanding aging adults’ challenges through a first-person patient perspective builds upon our quality of care. With increased empathy, we will provide better emotional support to our elders and their family members, bringing another layer of excellence to our person-centered approach.

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