Staff at Progress Housing Group in Leyland were given a virtual insight into the life of person experiencing dementia at a unique mobile training event this week which has toured the world.

With the help of the Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT) bus, staff from the housing group put on headphones, glasses, gloves and shoe insoles which distort the senses and mimic the day-to-day challenges of a dementia sufferer.

Participants were then asked to complete a series of straightforward tasks, such as matching a pair of socks or finding a pair of black glasses. They are monitored to see how they behave throughout the process before completing a de-briefing session.

Amongst the staff attending were Sarah McKiernan and Mandy Helmn who work for the Group’s Progress Lifeline service, which provides personal alarms and telecare equipment, and often work with people living with dementia to help them maintain independence. Mandy said: “I found the experience very emotional. It gave me a real insight into what it is like for our customers living with dementia but also highlighted how our service can support them and their families to lead more comfortable lives.”

Sarah added: “The training has been so helpful and relevant to my day-to-day job. I work in the response centre at Progress Lifeline and will often speak to customers who have dementia and they can sometime be very confused and scared.”

Samantha Beattie who is an Involvement Officer for the Group said: “It has been an amazing experience. I think that everyone who deals with someone who has dementia should go through the training. I now feel more empowered and confident to support someone who is living with dementia.”

The Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT) was invented by PK Beville, a specialist in geriatric care from America. Beville founded not-for-profit organisation Second Wind to change the way dementia patients were cared for by helping carers understand the reasons behind their behaviour. Beville tried interactive training, role play and videos to help carers understand the reasons behind dementia sufferer’s behaviour, but nothing was changing. But by using extensive observations, interviews with people with dementia and their carers, and current scientific knowledge, she created the VDT.

The Virtual Dementia Tour has now been in the UK for the past three years and has been experienced by over four million people in 22 different countries around the world.  It has been adopted by care providers, NHS trusts, Councils, CQC, Universities, Colleges, Fire Service, Police, Prisons and many more.

The mobile Virtual Dementia Tour will be Progress Housing Group’s offices in Leyland again next week.