Experiencing the world of dementia – at least for 8 minutes

Community leaders, emergency personnel and health officials had a chance to see first-hand what life is like walking in the shoes of someone with dementia – and it was an uncomfortable experience for most.

Last week, The Waterford seniors’ community in Tsawwassen hosted the Virtual Dementia Tour during a day-long event.

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The tour is an experimental training program that uses patented devices to temporarily alter participants’ reality to give a unique glimpse into the dementia world. Developed by P.K. Beville, a geriatric specialist and founder of Second Wind Dreams, the tour was created to give caregivers, family, first responders and health care providers unique insight into the struggles and challenges of those with dementia.

Last Wednesday, the Optimist was on hand to take the tour with Delta South MLA Ian Paton and his constituency assistant Taylor Grant.

“I was very confused. I maybe understood a few words that were said, but I had no idea what to do in the room,” said Grant during a post-tour debrief with staff at The Waterford.

Paton said it was certainly an eye-opening and educational experience.

“Within our own caucus we have a number of different sub committees and I will bring this up with our health critics,” said Paton. “I don’t see eye-to-eye with many of the NDP, but there are a few and one of them is Health Minister Adrian Dix. This is certainly something that I can tell him that I have done and everything we are gathering is that more and more people are out there every day that are starting to lose their mental abilities.”

When The Waterford general manager Tania Dusevic experienced the tour, she knew she wanted her staff to do the same.

“We are in the business of caring for people and the more we know about what they’re going through, the better equipped we are,” she said. “It’s one thing to think you might know what dementia is, but it’s a whole other ball game when you’re experiencing it.”

Her experience prompted Bria Communities, which owns The Waterford and The Wexford in Tsawwassen, to work with Second Dreams to train as facilitators of the tour experience. Last year all staff at Bria Communities participated.

“The experience was enlightening,” added Andie Bakehouse, a receptionist at The Wexford. “It has enhanced my empathy and patience and really changed my approach to working with residents who are experiencing dementia.”

Manager Matthew Jackson said bringing this experience to the wider community is all about education.

“It’s really education and spreading awareness - education on what many of our seniors in this community are experiencing on a daily basis and how the community can deal with these situations properly,” said Jackson.

Dusevic said they were thrilled to host the public tour day.

“This training is so valuable for anyone who works or interacts with seniors,” she said. “We’re proud to lead the way in advocating for seniors and educating people about the challenges of living with dementia.”




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