Virtual reality bus tour lets us experience life with dementia

Virtual reality dementia bus tour at Hastings Court. SUS-180602-095229001
Virtual reality dementia bus tour at Hastings Court. SUS-180602-095229001

A virtual reality experience showing people what it feels like to live with dementia came to Hastings last month.

Training 2 Care’s ‘Virtual Dementia Tour’ ran at Hastings Court Care Home on Wednesday (January 31).

Care home staff, family members of residents and representatives of the Observer series were all present at the event.

The event set out to emphasise the effects of dementia on its victims.

The tour was originally created in 1997 by P.K. Beville, a geriatric specialist who wanted to create an experiential tool that helps provide a first-hand understanding of what it feels like to have the disease.

The event at Hastings Court took three people into a mobile vehicle at one time, where the process begun.

“Put these spikes in your shoes,” was the first instruction given by the organiser, John. He proceeded to put gloves on each participant too.

“Wear these glasses and put these headphones on. You’ll be given five instructions once in the room that will inform you on what to do.”

Once in the room, guests were automatically immersed in the experience.

An overwhelming bustle of noises came from the headphones and spiked insoles placed in everyone’s shoes gave an unpleasant sensation throughout.

The Boston University Red Plate study conducted in 2004 showed that people living with dementia were up to 85 per cent more likely to be drawn to items that were red – for this reason, red-tinted tunnel vision glasses were provided that made specific items hard to distinguish.

Though instructions were given, the confusion of everyday senses made it extremely difficult to complete any of these.

After eight-and-a-half minutes, John removed participants’ headphones and glasses and allowed them to leave the vehicle.

Gathering all participants in a room, John said: “That was scary, wasn’t it? That’s what people with dementia have to live with every day.”

The next hour and a half of the session was spent sharing more vital information and advice about living with someone with dementia, which many believed ought to be a mandatory experience to both care home staff and families of those living with dementia.

“The fact that you have to pay for dementia care yourself is disgusting,” John said. “As we continue to inform people about dementia, hopefully politicians will start to look at it as a real illness.”

Speaking on the lack of understanding about dementia in society, John said: “We need to give these people a purpose in life.

“Reducing the noise we make and keeping them at home as long as possible, in an environment they’re comfortable in, is one way to do that. We child-proof our homes, so why don’t we dementia-proof our homes?”

A spokesman for Hastings Court said: “The experience was definitely worthwhile. It was really scary to see how people suffering with dementia actually live.

“I think it should be compulsory for every member of staff in care homes to do this.”

To book a Virtual Dementia Tour, visit tour.htm.