Oct 21, 2022

Virtual Reality Skills Training for Caregivers/Care Partners

About the TDRA, Announcements, Partnerships, Research, TDRA Investigators
Virtual reality

Given the choice, many Canadians would prefer to age in place within their homes and communities. The Aging in Place Challenge program, an initiative of the National Research Council (NRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), funds research that supports this choice through technology and innovation.

In this competition cycle, TDRA’s Caregiving and Neurotechnology Research Working Groups have jointly secured an Aging in Place Challenge program grant. Led by Dr. Mary Chiu and Dr. Amer Burhan, this project will adapt an existing program for caregivers/care partners of people living with dementia into the virtual reality (VR) space.

The CARERS program is an eight-week, closed-group psychotherapy program for caregivers/care partners of people living with dementia. It involves problem-solving therapy, emotional support, and skills-building through simulated scenarios. The program is highly effective; however, it is time and resource intensive, and is not widely accessible – especially for remote communities. Adapting this program into a VR environment will help to overcome these barriers.

The VR simulation training environment will be co-designed with caregivers/care partners of people living with dementia, along with other typical demographic representatives. The VR tool will then be evaluated for feasibility, acceptability, and tolerability before pilot testing is conducted. Pilot testing will assess if the program is ready for community implementation through evaluating its clinical efficacy in improving quality of relationship with people living with dementia, resilience, competence, and reducing caregiver/care partner depression and stress.


Mary Chiu (PI): PhD, Research Coordinator & Knowledge Mobilization Specialist, Research & Academics, Ontario Shores 

Amer Burhan

Amer Burhan (PI): Geriatric Psychiatrist, Physician-in-Chief and Endowed Chair for Applied Mental Health Research, Ontario Shores

Project Team

  • Ron Beleno; Designated Knowledge User

  • Nushi Choudhury; Research Officer, National Research Council Canada

  • Adam Dubrowski; Professor and Canada Research Chair in Health Care Simulation, Ontario Tech University

  • Bill Kapralos; Associate Professor, Software and Informatics Research Centre, Ontario Tech University

  • Kristina KokoreliasSenior Academic Program Coordinator, Healthy Ageing and Geriatrics Program, Sinai Health and University Health Network

  • Tarek Rajii; Professor of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, Chief of the Adult Neurodevelopment and Geriatric Psychiatry Division at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Executive Director, Toronto Dementia Research Alliance, University of Toronto

  • Irene Rubinstein; Designated Knowledge User

  • Joel Sadavoy; Medical Director, Cyril & Dorothy, Joel & Jill Reitman Centre for Alzheimer's Support and Training and of Provincial Enhancing Care for Ontario Care-Partners Program, Sinai Health Geriatrics Program, Sinai Health and the University Health Network

  • Adriana Shnall; Program Director, Koschitzky Centre for Innovations in Caregiving, Baycrest Health Sciences

  • Michael Smith; Scientist, Medical Devices Program, Dept of Life Sciences, National Research Council Canada

  • Lynn Zhu; Evaluation Researcher, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences