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Care home manager brings attractions indoors with virtual reality

  • As the home’s autistic residents can’t take part in their usual activities, care home manager Laura brought activities to them

  • She came up with the idea of using a VR headset so residents could ‘swim’ with dolphins, walk with penguins, visit a haunted house and enjoy an Elton John concert

  • Residents enjoy using the technology and it has resulted in one person being able to attend a pop concert when they hadn’t felt able before

A local care home for adults with autism has turned to virtual reality (VR) to support residents during the lockdown.

Staff know it is important that those with autism have structure and routine, and residents from Caerlan are used to scheduled visits to places such as the local pub, café, cinema and swimming baths but have had to stay at home and follow the current restrictions and social distancing.

So home manager Laura Prothero and her colleagues created an on-site pop up shop and café, but wanted to try something different that would help entertain residents and ease anxieties during the pandemic.

Laura decided to use VR technology and has been encouraging residents to use a headset that generate images and sounds and simulates experiences.

Super-sharp immersion and a 360 degree perspective has allowed residents to jump between reality and virtual reality in seconds.In one activity, they are immersed in an underwater world in VR. The lifelike habitats and the sound of their breathing and their air bubbles floating up to the surface is all that they hear.

Residents have ‘visited’ a number of places and have walked with penguins, been alongside polar bears, lions and tigers, swum with dolphins, visited the Great Barrier Reef, seen great white sharks and ‘attended’ a live concert stage featuring Elton John, all thanks to YouTube and VR.

“I was thinking of things we could do, and a while back I treated myself to this headset so I thought that would be a good idea, and I have brought it in every day for the last 2 weeks,” says Laura.

“Sensory overload can be an issue for those with autism but the residents who have used the headset so far have really enjoyed their ‘visits’ and have been really impressed with the technology.”

One resident who was particularly anxious about the possibility of going to a live show was able to attend a performance, using VR, of Elton John without any anxieties at all.

Caerlan is a care home for adults with autism and associated complex needs. The home is located in Llantrisant, near Cardiff, in South Wales. Caerlan is managed by Priory Adult Care, a division within Priory Group, the mental healthcare specialists.

Laura, Registered Manager at Caerlan, said: “I’m just so pleased that our residents are getting so much out of this. They have really enjoyed it. It is important that they continue to have fun during these really difficult times and I’m just glad we have found a way that really helps them. I am also so proud of my staff team who always look to new ways to help the people we support.”

About Priory Adult Care

Priory Adult Care is a division of the Priory Group. It has more than 230 care homes across the country, with 5,500 beds. It cares for people who have individual needs associated with a learning disability, autism, Asperger’s syndrome, or a mental health condition, and also offers residential, nursing and dementia care to older people with varying levels of need.