Virtual reality tour aims to improve care for dementia patients

Virtual reality tour aims to improve care for dementia patients

A virtual tour new to the western United States debuted at The Lodge Assisted Living Facility Tuesday. It takes just eight minutes and a few pieces of gear to transport participants into the mind of a dementia patient.

Certified dementia coach Rick Bennett said the tour sets out to answer one question.

“If you knew what it felt like to be them, would you be a better caregiver?,” Bennett said.

The Virtual Dementia Tour uses a simulation to familiarize people with the physical and mental ailments that come with dementia. Participants are asked to place prickly insoles into the bottom of their shoes for a pins-and-needles affect, then put on gloves to make it difficult to use their hands. Those going through the tour also put on dark sunglasses to illustrate loss of vision. Finally, tour guides give participants headphones pumping out loud static, voices and sirens to make it difficult to focus on assigned tasks.

“Those are all things that we simulated that give you eight minutes to feel what it felt like to walk in their shoes,” Bennett said.

Participants then make their way into a dark room and are asked to complete five simple tasks — made more difficult by the gear — in eight minutes. The tour proved difficult for some on Tuesday, but after just eight minutes, participants are able to take off the gear. Bennett said for dementia patients, that eight minutes is a glimpse into their everyday life.

Michael Meza is a family care physician and works with dementia patients on a regular basis. He said the tour made him more understanding as to what his clients go through each and every day.

“In a very short period of time, I learned so much and experienced so much so you really take it to heart,” Meza said.

Bennett hopes the tour will lead to improved care for dementia patients.

The Virtual Dimentia Tour will be open and free to the public on Thursday and Friday. To sign up, email or call 208-704-4400.