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Understanding what a person is going through allows for better medical care.

Nearly 50 million people around the world have some form of dementia, and that figure is expected to increase to more than 150 million by 2050.1 The condition can be an isolating one, as there is a lot of misunderstanding about what it is like to live with dementia and the appropriate way to treat and manage it.

Walking a mile in someone's shoes is the best way to understand what they are going through. While skilled nursing staff and the loved ones of people living with dementia may never know exactly what their loved one is experiencing, they can take a Virtual Dementia Tour® to gain a better understanding of what living with the condition is like.

What happens during a virtual dementia tour?

During the Tour®, participants wear special sense-altering equipment that simulate the effects of dementia. A trained facilitator then guides the participants throughout the Tour.

"People taking a Virtual Dementia Tour are asked to perform what are usually easy, everyday tasks, such as finding a clothing item," says Alyce Watts, Director of Behavioral Health and Dementia Care Services from PruittHealth. "But because the Tour disrupts their sensory experience, they find it challenging to do things that are usually second nature. It becomes difficult to walk, as the ground feels as if it's shifting beneath their feet. It's difficult to hold on to or grab things because of dulled sensations in the fingers."

The tour is a fully immersive experience.. The components give the participant a variety of visual, tactile and auditory impairments that challenge the participant in the same way a person with dementia is challenged. The environment is altered, as well, to give the participant a realistic picture of what it is like to have dementia.

Who should take the tour?

Given the prevalence of dementia, pretty much anyone can benefit from taking the tour. It can be particularly useful for members of communities that regularly interact with or care for people with the syndrome. People who might have limited, but still occasional, contact with people who are experiencing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia can also benefit from the program.

"Healthcare providers who work in skilled nursing settings can definitely benefit from the program," says Watts from PruittHealth. "Family members who want a better understanding of what their loved ones are going through also find value in participating. Additionally, those who work as emergency responders and those who work in positions that involve a considerable amount of interaction with the public, particularly with populations with dementia, can gain a better understanding and awareness by taking the tour."

​You might mention in the benefits section that staff scores on person centered care before and after the VDT showed and significant increase in the provision of person-centered care, or something like that since this part of a CMS project.

We can give you a VDT stock photo instead since this is not a VR – I recommend this one:

What are the benefits of the tour?

The most significant benefit of the Tour might be that it really does change participants' perspectives on dementia. Many who have taken it have come away from the tour with an understanding that the behaviors they've witnessed in their charges or loved ones aren't a result of dementia itself but are instead an attempt to cope with the effects of the condition.

Gaining that awareness has allowed skilled nursing providers to adjust the way they approach caring for their patients. Instead of trying to medicate the problem away or treating the reactions like symptoms, they are better equipped to try and work with the people for whom they care.

Family members and friends who have taken the tour have noticed a marked improvement in their interactions and relationships with their loved ones. By experiencing what their loved ones are going through, relatives and friends have been able to adjust their expectations and their communication tactics, allowing them to better connect with the person.

The Virtual Dementia Tour was developed by P.K. Beville, M.S., a geriatric specialist, with feedback from people with dementia. The program is available from Second Wind Dreams, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to changing people's perceptions on aging.


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