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Many of us know someone who is living with dementia—and on 3 May, local Toowoomba health professionals took part in the Virtual Dementia Tour™, to understand the true impacts of the condition.
Alzheimer’s Australia estimates that by 2025 there will be 6,000 people living with dementia-related symptoms in the Toowoomba region. Today, there are more than 413,100 people living with dementia in Australia, with approximately 244 new cases diagnosed each day. Australian Bureau of Statistics data also shows that dementia is the second leading cause of death overall in Australia, and is the top cause of death among females.
To increase understanding of dementia in the community, Churches of Christ Care, a leading not-for-profit provider of seniors care, will be delivering the Virtual Dementia Tour in Toowoomba this week, supporting participants to understand the physical and mental challenges a person living with dementia experiences every day.
Executive Director Services Bryan Mason said that by understanding what it is like for someone with dementia, we can provide better, more understanding support.
“Watching someone you care for navigate their world with dementia can be heart-wrenching as you try to understand what they are experiencing and how you can help,” Mr Mason said.
“Being able to have carers and health professionals interact with their environment with a short-term dementia filter will go a long way to them better understanding what it is like to experience dementia.
“Without actually having dementia there isn’t really any other way besides the Virtual Dementia Tour to feel what a person living with dementia experiences.”
The Virtual Dementia Tour participants are fitted with patented devices that alter their senses as they are guided by a certified trainer through everyday tasks and exercises in an experiential activity.
Mr Mason has experienced the tour first hand and said it was an eye-opening experience.
“Having worked with people with dementia and being in the aged care sector for many years, I thought I knew how those living with dementia felt, but I was shocked and amazed by the experience,” he said.
“It puts you in a place where you don’t know what is up, what that strange noise was, or even who that person is in front of you.
“Sadly that is how those living with dementia travel through life, but the tour allows us to place ourselves in the shoes of another, so we can meaningfully connect with those who experience dementia in order to make a positive difference in their lives.”
The growing need for appropriate dementia support and knowledge led Churches of Christ Care to secure the exclusive mainland Australian rights to the Virtual Dementia Tour. The tour is medically and scientifically proven to be the closest we can give a person with a healthy brain an experience of what dementia might be like.
The tour uses patented sensory devices and instruction based on research conducted by P.K. Beville, M.S., a specialist in geriatrics and founder of Second Wind Dreams® in the United States. Millions of participants have experienced the Virtual Dementia Tour worldwide, which has been successfully deployed in 20 countries.
Ms Beville said the Virtual Dementia Tour is a scientifically proven method designed to increase sensitivity toward those living with dementia and assists others to provide better person-centred care.
Since launching in June 2017, Churches of Christ Care has rolled out the Virtual Dementia Tour across its services and is also delivering the tour to other organisations, services and communities. To date, they have delivered the experience to approximately 1,800 Churches of Christ Care staff.
Information on the Virtual Dementia Tour provided by Churches of Christ Care can be found at cofc.com.au/vdt. Carers and providers can also register their interest in participating in the Virtual Dementia Tour on the website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Participants of the Virtual Dementia Tour in Toowoomba will be taking part in the Toowoomba Health Professionals Networking Event facilitate by Churches of Christ Care. The event engages local health professionals to work together to better support senior’s care on the Darling Downs.