A pioneering staff training programme about dementia will be rolled out across a national group of care homes.
PrimeLife commissioned Training2care’s virtual reality tour in response to Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge to boost dementia research last year.
Mr Cameron also said he wanted provide better access to help, advice and support for people who have the condition and their carers.
The virtual reality workshop was piloted at PrimeLife’s head office in Leicester where staff and people affected by dementia attended.
Vicki Shaw, PrimeLife’s Director of Quality Matters, said: “At PrimeLife we are committed to ensuring our high standards of care are not only maintained but improved.
“We wanted to develop a deeper understanding of what our clients who have dementia go through every day.
“We are committed to delivering quality care, which is why we felt this training day would be hugely beneficial to our members of staff. The feedback we received was hugely positive so we’re rolling it across the rest of our care homes.”
Participants were asked to conduct a series of tasks while wearing specialist equipment which were designed to stifle their senses.
Attendees wore goggles to blur their vision, spiky inserts in the bottom of their shoes to impair movement, large gardening gloves to replicate loss of nerve endings and headphones with loud music to increase disorientation.
Rachel Hough, a PrimeLife carer, said: “It wasn’t easy to understand what we were being asked to do by the course leaders and most of us just ended up guessing and walking around helplessly.
“Afterwards we were told some of the instructions we were given had actually been things like ‘match a pair of socks on the bed’. However, the glasses we were wearing were so bad you couldn’t even tell where the bed was.
“I think what we’ve learnt today has definitely helped me understand dementia better. I think the tour will be hugely beneficial to the rest of our staff as it really does change how you see the condition.”
Lesley Hartshorne, whose mother has dementia, also participated in the workshop.
She said: “I’ve learnt more about the daily struggles my mum encounters in eight minutes than I have in the past 20 years, thanks to taking part in this workshop.
“The tour made me feel like I was living her life and I experienced the frustrations she must regularly go through. I have a much better understanding of dementia now and what it feels like.”