A unique virtual reality (VR) program to be developed at Western has received a Future Skills Center $1 Million Innovation Grantaiming to provide personal support workers (PSWs) with access to innovative communication training to help care for patients with dementia.
The simulation program will help PSWs communicate and interact with Nala and James, two realistic avatars representing people in their mid-70s to middle stage of dementia.
“We chose to develop this with personal support workers because they are often the people who provide the most hands-on care and are often the most overlooked when it comes to innovation that can help them in their work. They want the training and often don’t have access to it. mentioned Marie Y. Savundranayagam, professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences and responsible for the project.
Called Be EPIC VR, the training program will be “highly interactive and highly personalized” in its approach and in its evaluation, Savundranayagam mentioned.
Nala and James’ responses to PSW comments and questions will be guided by artificial intelligence to make the part of the avatars’ dialogue as authentic and seemingly improvisational as possible.
Standard PSW training covers many practical skills, such as techniques for feeding, bathing and transferring patients from their bed or chair. The to-do list for each visit can be so long and time-consuming that there can be a tendency to be more task-focused than person-focused.
Yet caregiving is even more complex with people with dementia, who often have communication impairments and complex behaviors – paradoxically, with a greater need for meaningful social interaction that might not be addressed in conventional PSSP training.
“It’s about inclusion on all fronts, including the needs of the personal support worker and the person with dementia,” said Savundranayagam, which is also ddirector of the Sam Katz Community Health and Aging Research Unit at Western.
Future Skills Center is a federal consortium of public and private partners dedicated to helping Canadians gain the skills they need to thrive in a changing labor market. Thusday, the organization announced that 13 projects would receive funding create and deliver rapid training for in-demand skills in healthcare, construction, and information technology.
The organization provided an initial $419,000 for the first phase of Be EPIC, and has now added another $1 million to develop the VR component.
Virtual training is a high-tech outgrowth of an existing 10-hour post-certification skills upgrading program developedin which actors play the roles of people with dementia while PSWs improve their strategies and skills in effective communication.
“We emphasize the importance of person-centred care. For example, there are two ways to help someone prepare for the day. You can walk into the room, pull the covers off and say, “It’s time to go – we need to clean up, get dressed and eat. Or you can greet them, ‘Hello, James, my name is Marie [and wait for a response from James]. I’m your caregiver and I’m here to help you get ready for the day [and wait for a response from James]How are you feeling this morning?
“In person-centred care, you continue to do the tasks – and maybe even do them more effectively because it’s done in the context of a person’s story: what they like, what she doesn’t like or maybe who she likes. and they don’t like it. It’s looking around the room and seeing photos of family or events or memories to understand who and what is important to them.
The success of the Be EPIC in-person training prompted Savundranayagam and his team to explore how to expand it to other locations. And while conventional online video training platforms can be helpful, a 3D interactive experience is much richer than an online training module could be, she said.
VR technology is developed by Motive.ioa Vancouver-based company that specializes in creating virtual reality training content for employers in scenarios such as mine safety, operating room protocols, and locating underground utilities.
They create simulated rooms and use hundreds of speech samples to develop conversational modules, using artificial intelligence, that will adapt to a range of scenarios that might arise during training and in real life.
“Our ultimate goal is to deploy this remotely. We don’t extend VR because we think it’s cool; we are growing because it has the potential to reach more people more effectively, to help people more inclusively, without being limited by geography,” said Savundranayagam.