Virtual program gives nurses an 8-minute glimpse of dementia

Virtual tour simulates feelings of dementia

Virtual program gives nurses an...

MADISON, Wis. - Meriter Hospital is utilizing a virtual dementia tour program to train every nurse in their system and give them a sense for what patients with dementia deal with.

“It is hard to understand what they are going through.  This training allows for our staff, and those who are experiencing the training to have dementia for about eight minutes,” said Carrie Bennett, a geriatric clinical nurse specialist and coordinator of the training.

The virtual dementia tour utilizes shoe insoles that create discomfort, glasses that limit vision and simulate macular degeneration, gloves that takeaway dexterity, and headphones that bombard the auditory senses with multiple conversations and street sounds.

While dealing with the sensory distractions, the nurses are taken into a room and given five simple tasks to complete. 

“As an observer in the room, you see frustration, you see wandering, you see rummaging, and you see agitation.  You see all of the behavior we see in patients who have dementia,” said Bennett.

The insoles, gloves, glasses and earphones effect the senses of the participants.

“I felt all of my senses were being stimulated, but also they were taken away at the same time,” said Courtney Cohen, a Meriter nurse working in the intensive care unit.

Even Bennett, who focuses on geriatric care, gained a better understanding from the virtual dementia tour.

“I will tell you it was very eye-opening for me.  I’m supposed to be the dementia expert here.  I thought I knew everything.  I went through the tour about two years ago, and I walked out of the room thinking, ‘wow, I know nothing’,” said Bennett.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association 5.5 million Americans are living with the disease. 

Whether as patients or visitors, Meriter Hospital encounters individuals with dementia on a regular basis.

“Oh daily, a large number of our patients have dementia,” said Bennett.

The virtual dementia tour training is meant to teach the nurses empathy and a better understanding of what individuals with dementia are dealing with.

“I’m going to be much more sympathetic to my patients with dementia, and specifically, I’m going to be a lot more patient,” said Amanda Gosselin, a Meriter nurse working in the intensive care unit.

So far 200 of Meriter’s nurses have been through the virtual dementia tour training and training for the remaining 300 nurses will be completed by 2018.

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