The Virtual Dementia Tour ® (VDT)
The Virtual Dementia Tour is a hands-on experiential tool kit created for
anyone seeking to understand the physical and mental challenges of those
suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia. Homewatch CareGivers of Thousand Oaks teamed up
with Second Wind Dreams to provide a mobile unit in order to offer the
Tour in this region to members of the public, healthcare professionals,
family caregivers, and anyone else interested in learning more about dementia.
The major claim is that the Virtual Dementia Tour gives you a window "into their world".
In short, it is a tool that gives you a virtual form of dementia, allowing you to experience what it is like to suffer from this debilitating disease. The VDT is designed to help you improve communication by providing the participant with a stronger awareness of what dementia can actually be like in order to move them from sympathy to empathy.
If “walking in another’s shoes” is the key to empathy, try literally walking with the tingling soles of a person with neuropathy, or writing a note with fumbling fingers, or trying to select what to wear when you can’t discern colors.
Each participant wears encumbrances that temporarily impair them both physically and cognitively while attempting to perform routine everyday tasks. During the Tour they become completely disoriented and disconcerted. Their brain just won't do what they want it to do.
“One of our biggest challenges is getting people assisting with those with dementia to understand that this is not willful behavior; it’s the disease,” said Kris Martin, Owner of Homewatch CareGivers. “The Virtual Dementia Tour is a way to help them really get it.”
The tearful director of a nursing home was moved to admit “I have a lot of apologies to make." Presumably to her residents.
A social worker who took the tour said “Everyone responds in their own way but we’ve had caregivers who have worked for years with the elderly say things like, ‘I never really understood before what my clients are going through’, or, ‘I’m going to do things differently from now on.’”
Kris Martin, is the primary caregiver for her mother who has Alzheimer’s. After Kris completed the Tour, her comment was, “Oh my goodness, I just did 10 minutes in my mother’s shoes and it was very disturbing. My mother lives with this every day.” Taking the tour has allowed Kris to provide much better care and understanding of why her mom behaves the way she does.
The research and experience of the Virtual Dementia Tour will change the way medical professionals, caregivers, family members, and the general public view and work with people living with dementia. It is Kris Martin’s hope that society, in general, will someday perceive aging and its diseases in a more compassionate way. The Virtual Dementia Tour is a tool to help us all develop a greater appreciation – and acceptance – of those living with this disease.
All of Homewatch CareGivers of Thousand Oaks administrative staff has gone through the Virtual Dementia Tour training which qualifies them to be facilitators of the Tour. During August 2015, all our caregivers will experience the Tour which will help them to gain a better understanding of what a person with dementia is living with and improve their caregiving skills.
Kris Martin is very passionate about taking this Tour into the community to help caregivers, families, nurses, social workers, administrators, and other organizations serving the elders, to better identify with the day-to-day struggles of those with dementia, improving their ability to communicate and provide care.