Simulation gives a feel of what dementia is like

The virtual dementia experience ''''Picture: Training2care/Daniel Jones ''www.danieljonesphotography.co.uk
The virtual dementia experience ''''Picture: Training2care/Daniel Jones ''www.danieljonesphotography.co.uk

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IT’S a feeling of disorientation and frustration at being unable to do the simplest tasks.

And now a training programme gives people an insight into what it might be like to live with dementia.

Portsmouth City Council has been using a simulation exercise called the virtual dementia tour for frontline workers in adult social care.

The tour is an experience designed to give individuals the ability to identify with, and understand, people with dementia’s behaviour and needs by attempting to walk in their shoes.

The course is run at the Civic Offices in Portsmouth, and is carried out by learning and development officer Kerry Hullett.

Before taking the tour, a presentation is given to help people understand what dementia is and how it can affect people.

Those on the course are asked to rate how they are feeling emotionally.

Kerry said: ‘The training is to give people a flavour of dementia, albeit for a short period of time.

‘If you have dementia, your senses are altered to a certain degree. Once staff and family carers have experienced their dementia tour they can then use the experience to help with supporting the person in a constructive way.’

The tour lasts seven minutes and is carried out in a room.

A person’s senses are impaired with glasses and headphones, as well as discomfort added to their feet with spiky gel pads.

Catherine Bennett, a marketing officer at the city council, took part in the tour.

She said: ‘I found the whole experience very disturbing. Due to the noise in the background I could only remember two things I was asked to do.

‘I kept jumping because loud noises would startle me and I couldn’t see properly because of the darkness and the goggles.

‘It felt as if I was trapped in a nightmare.

‘My mind wasn’t reacting as quickly as I knew it could do. I felt trapped.

‘When I couldn’t remember any more of the tasks I felt useless and I gave up.

‘The virtual dementia tour is a powerful learning tool.

‘It made me appreciate what people with dementia must go through every day and how frustrating it must be for them.

‘My reaction of just giving up is probably what a lot of people with dementia end up doing.

‘I would urge any family member or carer of someone with dementia to do the tour.’

After the tour is over people are given the chance to share their experience and also rate their mood after they have had their senses altered.

The tour operator also makes notes of your behaviour during the simulation, which is shared and discussed.

Kerry added: ‘Staff have told us that it has made a real difference to the way that they work with people who have dementia.

‘We are delighted that, thanks to Better Care funding, we will now be able to offer this training to staff who work in the private care sector and to family carers.

‘We hope that this joined-up approach will ultimately benefit all people in Portsmouth who have dementia.’

The patented virtual dementia tour was invented by PK Beville and owned by Second Wind Dreams in America and runs under licence in the UK.

Be a friend

A DEMENTIA Friend learns more about what it’s like to live with the condition.

That then turns understanding into action, from helping someone find the right bus, to recognising signs, and supporting loved ones.

Anyone of any age can be a dementia friend and there are two ways of doing it – take an online course lasting an hour, or join a face-to-face session.

The News wants to hear from all those who take part in a course, so we can see the difference you’re making.

There’s a number of ways in which you can do this – email priya.mistry@thenews.co.uk and give your name, age, address and contact details.

Or send a Tweet to @portsmouthnews with a message and #newsdementia

To sign up, visit dementiafriends.org.uk

Our three campaign pledges

OUR year-long campaign is committed to delivering three pledges in a bid to raise awareness and increase support. We want our readers to get behind our target to:

- Raise awareness of dementia – each day this week The News will feature a series of stories on the condition and will continue to run stories throughout the year to help improve understanding of dementia.

- Double the number of dementia friends – at the moment there are 1,416 in Portsmouth, 405 in Gosport, 662 in Fareham, 96 in Havant and 443 in Waterlooville.

Our aim is to get more than 6,000 people signed up to the scheme by May 2016.

- Ensure no-one feels alone – make sure information and support for both carers and patients is easily available and that there is a central point of contact for the Portsmouth area so people do not feel isolated.