At New Copford Place (NCP), our Colchester-based residential care home, relatives and members of the care team have taken part in an immersive Virtual Dementia Tour experience, which gave them a deeper insight into living with dementia.
The care home was keen to participate in the experience to help them better understand what daily life for their residents who are living with dementia is like. “Taking part and being enveloped in the sensory experience has the given us all a greater appreciation of dementia. It has helped us to further understand our residents on a deeper and more meaningful level, enabling us to support them and provide the best possible care,” said Lucy Buckle, the Deputy Manager at NCP.
Through its Dementia Education Programme, Friends of the Elderly now has 66 trained Dementia Champions who work in its care homes and day care services but is always working to enhance and expand its dementia knowledge and best practice. With this in mind, Lucy decided to start fundraising to secure a visit from Training 2 Care UK, the UK partners of the ground-breaking Virtual Dementia Tour ® (VDT®), which is owned by Second Wind Dreams in America.
“I’d heard about the Virtual Dementia Tour and how it was invented by world renowned Dementia specialist, PK Beville,” said Lucy. “I thought it would be an interesting and informative way to physically demonstrate to our care home team members and relatives the world – as our residents, who are living with dementia see and experience it – every day.
“We are a charity and I know how important every penny is, so to raise the additional funds for the Virtual Dementia Tour to visit NCP, I took part in two 12 kilometre Nuclear Mud Races and a sponsored fire walk. I can honestly say that each kilometre and every hot step, was totally worth it,” Lucy added.
“The Virtual Dementia Tour was well attended by our residents’ relatives and members of our care team, from all departments – management, administration, care team, activities, domestic – and our Dementia Champions – everyone got involved,” said Lucy.
In the Virtual Dementia Tour attendees experienced a detailed simulation, unlike anything they had taken part in before. “It was like opening a window, pulling the curtains back and taking a giant step into the world of dementia,” Lucy added.
Before starting the training, all attendees were given a selection of items to put on. Sound distorting headphones, bulky gloves which gave the sense of losing the ability to feel, sunglass goggles which distorted their sight and knobbly insoles for their shoes which simulated very painful pins and needles when walked on.
Upon entering the Dementia Virtual Tour, the participants were immersed into total sensory disorientation. Their vision, sense of touch, movement and sound were all distorted to mirror the experiences and physical feelings of a person living with dementia.
Daniel Sabau, the Registered Manager at NCP who participated in the training said: “Allowing us to physically walk in the shoes of a person who is living with dementia in all aspects of their every day life, was extremely confusing and perplexing. The feelings of confusion, vulnerability and remoteness were all consuming.
“We were each asked to complete five simple tasks,” Daniel continued. “However, with erratic loud and distant random noises like alarm clocks, Police sirens and traffic noise being pumped through the headphones, flashes of light appearing on the walls and floor, not being able to see properly, the crippling sensation of excruciating pins and needles, not having control of my hands and sense of touch, it was impossible to know what to do. It was so frustrating.”
Joy Clark, NCP’s Office Manager added: “To experience the feelings, sensations and emotions of a person living with dementia through the Virtual Dementia Tour was very humbling. I was confused, didn’t understand what was expected of me and I became quite anxious. At one point, I sat and cuddled a teddy as that felt safe. I was told by the Training 2 Care UK team that this is quite a common reaction.”
“The Virtual Dementia Tour not only demonstrated what it is like to live with dementia, but also the senses it affects,” Lucy added. “All of us who took part in the training left with a deeper appreciation and a clearer insight into what it is like to live with dementia.”
“Each member of the care team at NCP is passionate about their work and we are all totally focused on supporting and caring for our residents. By taking part in the Virtual Dementia Tour, we all now have a deeper understanding and comprehension of what our residents who are living with dementia experience on a daily basis which helps us to ensure we make sure that each resident has the best experience we can possibly provide, every day,” Daniel concluded.