Tuesday, February 09, 2021

Virtual Reality for Seniors: How Lions Home for the Elders is Transforming the Rehab Experience

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Our Community Care partners are constantly looking for ways to deliver service excellence and quality care to the seniors in Singapore. With the aid of technology, more organisations are now able to improve the lives of seniors in the long-term care sector. In this month’s article, mosAIC explores how our partners are reshaping rehabilitation in our community.

Virtual reality (VR) isn’t a technology just for gamers anymore. It has proven to bring about positive changes such as creating new social experiences, and is emerging as a useful tool for seniors to maintain their cognitive abilities — and Lions Home For the Elders (Lions Home) has jumped on this trend. In 2018, the centre brought on board an interactive VR technology, Jintronix, to use a new, engagement-focused approach to physical activity for their residents.

Jintronix is an exercise programme that consists of a comprehensive set of exercises and assessment, which combines traditional movements and exercises used in rehabilitation. Through the use of virtual games and motion-sensing cameras, this VR technology makes physical therapy more engaging for residents. It also allows therapists to devise training routines for residents and adjust difficulty levels. The software ensures all exercises are performed accurately by tracking each resident’s progress.

The project was partially funded by the Healthcare Productivity Fund (HPF), which supports Community Care partners in technology adoption to reduce the time and effort required for manpower-intensive processes.

Providing Holistic Care

Before the inception of Jintronix, the team at Lions Home understood that the seniors in nursing homes often have a sedentary lifestyle with limited engagement in exercises and physical activities. Furthermore, ageing often results in a loss of muscle mass and this may eventually lead to sarcopenia. The condition, which causes a progressive loss of functional abilities, increases the risk of falls and decreases mobility. This can eventually lead to cardio-metabolic disorders, disability and cognitive decline.

Along with these observations, the staff at Lions Home also noticed residents showing signs of activity fatigue and a lack of interest in the conventional exercise programmes that were being offered at that time. Seniors preferred to have more choices of physical activities, and the increasing resident-to-staff ratio also attributed to the need for an intervention.

To address the changing needs of the residents and to continue with meaningful engagement both physically and cognitively, Lions Home explored new modes of Exergaming and Gerontechnology through the “VR for engagement of elderly in Rehabilitation” project.

Having been exposed to the benefits of VR and noticing how seniors around the world have reacted positively to the technology, the Lions Home staff looked at integrating this system into their own homes.

Taking One Step at a Time

The pilot project began in April 2018 , during which the VR technology was introduced to selected residents across four wards. The programme has been extended to include more residents, and later to Lions Home in Bedok. Keeping in mind the need to cater to the varied profiles of seniors, the staff narrowed down the profile criteria to the following:

  • 60 years old and above
  • Willingness to participate in the programme
  • Medically stable
  • No visual or hearing impairment
  • Mini–Mental State Examination (MMSE) score of 18 and above
  • Independent ambulant, ambulant with aid or wheelchair ambulant

After the residents gave their consent, they and their caregivers were briefed thoroughly about the programme.

The objectives of the pilot project were as follows:

  • To maintain physical activity through exercises to prevent disability and enhance seniors’ quality of life.
  • To provide alternatives and innovative programmes to engage residents in exercises and physical activity.
  • To meet the ever-changing need of the diverse profile of the residents.
  • To improve staff’s productivity without compromising resident care and safety.

Harnessing the Power of Virtual Reality

During a VR session, a trained care staff is assigned to set up the system and supervise to ensure safety of the senior. Each senior is given 30 minutes to acquaint themselves with the technology and clock in the hours for physical activity.

To boost participation and provide exciting alternatives to conventional exercises for seniors, the team at Lions Home have made incremental changes to the variation of physical activity in the centre.

Seeing a Difference

The impact of this implementation has yielded significant improvements. The team at Lions Home noticed three main differences:

  1. Increased productivity for staff: As Jintronix is a portable device and only needs a stable WiFi connection to work, the team at Lions Home saw a significant reduction in man-hours needed to transfer residents to and fro for their rehabilitation sessions. This attributes to a reduction of more than 10% in the man-hours spent on one-to-one activities.
  2. Ability to ensure quality care without compromising safety: The issue of the high resident-to-staff ratio is also addressed as the technology requires minimal staff supervision due to the safe nature of the activity.
  3. Boost in residents’ morale: Residents have provided positive feedback on the activity, proving the feasibility of introducing technology to their seniors.

With these new and innovative means, Lions Home was recognised for their improvement effort at the 2020 Community Care Excellence Awards (CCEA) and received the Merit Team Award.

Maintaining physical activity through exercises has proven to be important to prevent disability and enhance the quality of life. Apart from improving their physical well-being, VR technology is an alternative tool in maintaining seniors’ cognitive abilities. These technological advancements not only promote a more active lifestyle for the seniors, but also boost staff productivity for the team at Lions Home.

“I like doing it daily. It’s fun!”
- Resident at Lions Home for the Elders

Interested to find out how the Healthcare Productivity Fund can support your productivity initiatives? Visit https://www.aic.sg/for-community-care-partners/funding-support-for-your-organisation/hpf or drop us an e-mail at hpf@aic.sg.

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