Living with dementia: my virtual experience

We hold many events and Open Days at Country Court Care and as part of my job I get to travel the country helping to organise and promote them. Our Open Day at Marling Court Care Home in South London was going to be a little different though. We arranged for Training2Care to come along and hold a ‘Virtual Dementia Tour’, this was aimed at families of people living with dementia, our own staff and local health care professionals. We had several people sign up for the tour in advance and we were looking forward to a busy day.

The Virtual Dementia Tour

Having arrived at Marling Court I was asked if I wanted to take part in the tour. Always keen to understand more about dementia I agreed but was somewhat put off by the trainer. “She’s so rude!” and “she’s going to put people off” were comments that I heard as I was told in no uncertain terms to ”hurry up”, fill in the form and sit down. We were led into a corridor and asked, no ordered, to put special insoles into our shoes, we were given gloves, headphones and glasses to wear, hurriedly read a set of instructions and then led into a noisy darkened room and left there. Confused would be one word to describe how it felt, totally ill-at-ease and even a bit scared were also what I experienced.

How does it feel to have dementia?

This was of course exactly how people with dementia feel, not just for a short period of time but permanently. The trainer’s tone, body language and style were all designed to disarm participants and heighten the emotions we were feeling. As the session went on this only continued to the point where it was almost unbearable. The relief at being able to take off the equipment and return to the ‘normal’ world was immense. The equipment we wore gave us and idea of the physical sensations of the dementia sufferer, but I certainly hadn’t expected to experience the fear, confusion and anger. The training gave you the briefest glimpse into the everyday torment that people live with, it certainly opened my eyes and it will stay with me.

Caring for someone with dementia

The de-brief helped us to put our experience into perspective, the trainer gave some excellent advice on how carers and family members can ease people’s everyday lives. It also gave an improved comprehension of certain behaviours and how to manage them. Participants unanimously agreed that the session had given us all a revealing insight into dementia; there were tears, laughter and cries of “oh, so that’s why she does that!”

We often hear dementia described as a ‘cruel’ and ‘heart-breaking’ disease, but nothing can prepare you for the reality. My respect for our residents living with dementia, their families and our fantastic carers has grown once again.

Lucy Bateson, Marketing Manager, Country Court Care

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