What is it really like for someone living with dementia?

Some Envigor staff are experiencing first-hand what living with dementia is really like by participating in innovative training through Dementia Australia’s Centre for Dementia Learning.

The interactive course uses virtual reality technology to provide participants with a real insight into what dementia residents may be experiencing on a daily basis.

For the 447,115 Australians living with dementia, many of their symptoms are more than meets the eye – that is unless you can experience what it’s like for yourself.

That’s where the virtual reality technology comes in. The three-hour hands-on workshop is based around EDIE, which stands for Educational Dementia Immersive Experience. More than an acronym, Edie is also the virtual person you become when you slip on the EDIE virtual reality headsets and start experiencing life through his eyes.

Behind the headsets, you soon start to realise that dementia is much more than just trouble with short-term memory.

As Edie, each participant has to navigate their way through what would seemingly be a simple task, except you are experiencing it as a person with dementia.

Making your way through the multi-sensory experience, you soon start to experience visual disturbances, difficulty problem solving, confusion, trouble processing thoughts and are distracted by loud noises and hallucinations.

With these difficulties comes anxiety and the heart-pounding fear that doing something that once came easy has become almost impossible.

After each participant has navigated the virtual world, it’s time to come up with a dementia plan to help Edie live well with dementia.

By living the experience, participants soon realised that making small changes can make a big difference for a person living with dementia. Helpful changes for the virtual scenario included:

  • Improved lighting
  • Help with reminders
  • Changing the colour of door handles and toilet seats
  • Decluttering spaces
  • Changing out patterned carpet or flooring for plain colours
  • Repainting walls to be a neutral shade
  • Adding a reminder system in a prominent place
  • Getting home help for meal prep and cleaning

After the discussion, it was back to the EDIE headsets to see how it felt once some of the discussed changes and modifications were put in place.

Course facilitator Helen says that the virtual reality experience paired with the information she provides in the course makes dementia a real experience, rather than just a diagnosis or a label.

“This diagnosis (dementia) isn’t just a word, it’s an experience and this training gives an insight into its impact,” says Helen.

“It’s been a resounding success – it’s much easier for me to get a message across when the person is totally engaged, and they are totally engaged when they’ve been through the EDIE experience. They take it away with them and are much more likely to put into practice.”

Envigor staff will continue to participate in the small group training sessions over the coming months to continue improving their person-centred support for people living with dementia.

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