Dementia affects almost 50 million people worldwide. This general diagnosis denotes changes in a person’s memory, personality, and/or behavior. The neurologic symptoms include memory loss, difficulty communicating or talking, confusion or disorientation, depression, and anxiety. The effects of dementia far exceed the person diagnosed with the disease. It also immensely affects their friends, family, and community.
Second Wind Dreams ®, a non-profit founded in 1997, “…is dedicated to changing the perception of aging through educational programs, including its flagship sensitivity training, the Virtual Dementia Tour ®.” The Inclusive Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT)® was designed with three main initiatives: (1) provide the opportunity to experience what life with dementia is like with standard care; (2) experience what life with dementia is like in a person-centered care environment; (3) compare the difference between standard and person-centered care with the intention of developing strategies of improved care based on personal experience. Participants of the tour undergo temporary altered senses to achieve these objectives.
Since the launch of the tour, more than three million people in 20+ countries have participated in this program and sensitivity training. Organizations such as the Center for Disease Control (CDC), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Google, Facebook, Wellstar, Johnson & Johnson, WebMD, and Caesars Entertainment have used the Inclusive Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT)®.
UGA’s College of Pharmacy’s students, faculty, and staff had an opportunity to experience the Virtual Dementia Tour, which was sponsored by the Student College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists (CPNP) and organized by second year pharmacy student Jordan Glasgow of Norcross. According to Dr. Linda Logan, Public Service Associate in Experience Programs and CPNP faculty advisor, the tour provided a realistic viewpoint for participants.
Dr. Logan advocates for experiential learning opportunities to increase student empathy and understanding of the impact of mental health on the daily lives of patients. “The VDT experience impacted me both professionally and personally. To actually experience the world through the lens of a dementia patient was very disconcerting and incredibly impactful. Reading or listening to a description of what life is like for patients with dementia is informative; experiencing the world through their lens is transformative. All individuals involved in caring for patients with dementia would benefit from this 10-minute window into the lives of their loved one and/or patient.”
Jason Jones, the College’s Director of Human Resources, was the primary caregiver for his father who had dementia, during which he often wondered what his father’s perspective was like. “The virtual tour is probably the closest I’ll get without actually having it myself. It was very overwhelming being in those shoes (and gloves) for just a few moments knowing it is everyday life for a lot of people. I better understand why my father acted the way he did. In HR, I seek to understand a person’s viewpoint when dealing with difficult situations. This experience definitely added to my ‘toolkit,’ which I can utilize in both my professional and personal life.”
Maddie Marsh, a P4 from Statesboro, also attended the workshop. “I had a grandparent with dementia, so I was interested in this experience to get a glimpse into what his life was like. I feel like I got a better understanding, and it will forever give me more patience and grace as a pharmacist towards people living with dementia.”
Another P3, Logan Smith of Milledgeville, shared his perspective. “The Virtual Dementia Tour was incredibly eye-opening. I feel like, for the first time, I have somewhat of an understanding of how people living with dementia may feel. I highly recommend the Virtual Dementia Tour to anyone, but especially current and future healthcare professionals.”
Dr. Logan added, “Understanding a dementia patient’s daily experiences can drastically help caregivers and family improve the level of care they provide to their patients and family members. The Inclusive Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT)® has sparked a shift to individualized, person-centered treatment and care. This initiative has seen numerous positive results, including a decrease of depression in patients and an increase in overall staff morale at treatment facilities. It’s a must-see for everyone!”
“The Virtual Dementia Tour, created by P.K. Beville, is a scientifically-proven method of building a greater understanding of dementia through the use of patented sensory tools and instruction. Proceeds from the sale of the Virtual Dementia Tour support the work of Second Wind Dreams, an internationally known nonprofit dedicated to changing the perception of aging through the fulfillment of elders’ dreams.”