“At first I felt apprehensive,” admits Jennifer, a Care Aide at Magnolia Gardens, as she reflects on her experience on the Virtual Dementia Tour®. “I have a family member with early onset Alzheimer’s, and even though I work with residents living with dementia every day, I didn’t know what to expect.”
According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, 1.1 million of us are impacted directly or indirectly by dementia—a condition that robs our loved ones of the ability to think, remember, and reason. Caregivers often find the challenge of meeting needs to be complicated by an inability to understand behaviour. That’s why staff at Magnolia Gardens Care Centre staff participate in the Virtual Dementia Tour.
The Virtual Dementia Tour is an evidence-based experiential training program that builds a greater understanding of dementia by temporarily altering participants physical and sensory abilities. P.K. Beville, a geriatric specialist and founder of Second Wind Dreams®, developed the tour to give caregivers, family, first responders, and health care providers a first-hand experience of the challenges of living with dementia.
Team leaders at Magnolia Gardens are among a handful of trained facilitators in Canada. Parent company, Bria Communities is the only residential care provider in BC that ensures every staff member participates in the training and experiences what it is like to walk in the shoes of a senior living with dementia.
“The tour gives our staff a chance to experience first-hand what our residents live with every day. The result is greater empathy for what a struggle their lives can be,” says Sue Wilson, Director of Care at Magnolia Gardens Care Centre.
September is World Alzheimer’s Month, and it’s an opportune time to focus on the impact dementia has on people suffering from it, as well as their caregivers. Training initiatives like the Virtual Dementia Tour can be transformational in giving caregivers, family members, first responders, and health care workers new insight into the lives of seniors.
Once she completed the eight-minute tour and debriefed with fellow staff and leaders, Jennifer was thankful for the opportunity. “It was emotional,” she says, “but I’m glad I did it. It made me more aware of how life is for people living with dementia, and it helped me understand my loved one’s world much better.”