It is somewhat stating the obvious to say that the best way to help people with dementia is to understand it better (especially when we read the recent reports in the media about the apparent lack of proper understanding among hospital staff of how to deal with the disease). But how do we truly do this? There are many studies and theories about the disease and how it affects people but does this really give us the insight that we need? Can we genuinely appreciate what it’s like?
To help create a more meaningful representation of what it might be like to live with dementia there is now an ‘immersive experience’ that you can try, brought to the UK by care training company, Caring to Train. The Mobile Virtual Dementia Tour is designed to simulate what it’s like to have dementia by using props – gloves, headphones, insoles and glasses - and environmental conditions to alter the senses.
This is the account of a journalist’s Virtual Dementia experience:
“The gloves remove my sense of touch, while the spiky insoles in my shoes replicate the pins and needles caused by peripheral neuropathy – where nerve endings die in the hands and feet. It's like walking on shards of glass and I inch gingerly around the lorry, inadvertently adopting the shuffling gait of someone who is living with dementia. The dark glasses imitate macular degeneration and presbyopia, which is when a person's vision becomes blurry due to a loss of elasticity in the lens of the eye. I can't make out the faces of anyone in the room, leaving me disoriented and scared. My headphones reproduce the kinds of sounds heard by a person with dementia. Contrary to popular belief, people living with dementia don't lose their hearing. In fact, they hear at a slightly higher volume to those without the condition. What they do lose, however, is the ability to differentiate between sounds. Everything becomes chaotic. With the headphones on, I'm lost in a world of indeterminate noise. The whole experience is terrifying.” See the full article here.
It sounds like a fascinating experience, and anything that allows us to understand dementia better has to be a good thing. All of our dementia-friendly products are designed based on the medical industry’s understanding of dementia and the latest theories – how people respond to colour, images and text, the emotions that are prompted by them and what they communicate. Hopefully, experiences such as this will enhance that understanding, enabling the development of better treatments and environments to manage the condition well.
The Virtual Dementia experience has been available in the UK for a couple of years but the Mobile Virtual Dementia Tour, which is essentially the experience recreated in the back of a lorry, is now travelling around the UK to care homes, medical practices and council offices and is available to anyone who wants to try it (a £20 charge applies). The dates and locations are here, including several dates in West Yorkshire.