With an innovative program available at Trinity Homes, staff can now get the perspective of what residents with dementia see and feel.
According to Monica Padgett, RN, MSN, clinical nurse educator at Trinity Homes, the Virtual Dementia Tour allows staff to learn “more appropriate and better ways to work with people with dementia.” Dementia causes the senses to be altered, including impaired peripheral vision, and difficulty sensing light, she explained. The way senses are altered can also alter the behavior of a patient with dementia. “It may seem abnormal to us, but it is totally normal for them,” she said.
As part of the simulation, participants wear a pair of sunglasses that have been altered and headphones that are pre-programmed. They are placed in a room and given a list of simple tasks to complete under the conditions of the sunglasses and headphones.
“We give them eight minutes to complete those tasks,” explained Deanna Ness, RN, BSN, CNA education coordinator at Trinity Homes. However, Monica noted, “with a diagnosis of dementia, it is more complex and a real struggle to complete.” It could take twice the time, if not longer, with dementia.
“We try to simulate those things so our caregivers can go through this tour and have a better understanding of what our residents are going through daily,” Deanna said. “And not just with vision, but the whole tour.”
Around 50 million people worldwide have dementia, with nearly 10 million new cases each year, according to the World Health Organization. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are becoming more prominent in the United States, “especially in the older generation coming into nursing homes,” Monica noted.
Over 50 percent of residents at Trinity Homes have some type of dementia diagnosis.
Jamie Hammer, RN, MSN, director of nursing at Trinity Homes, prompted the implementation of dementia training, as well as the Virtual Dementia Tour, to meet the required educational needs for the staff. “The goal of the training is to provide healthcare professionals with a basic understanding of the changes in memory, communication, function, and behavior that occur as a result of dementia, and the appropriate intervention strategies to enhance the care they provide to individuals with this disease,” she said. Jamie is passionate about providing a safe environment for both residents and staff, which is why her Doctorate research project focuses on dementia education and training.
Once it becomes more established, and Trinity Homes staff are trained, other Trinity Health employees, families of residents, and members of the community will be able to take part and share in the experience.