Caring for someone with dementia is daunting, but it may not be as challenging as you expect. As a nurse, approaching your role with knowledge and understanding is crucial to ‘success’ when dealing with these patients.

MADISON, Wis. – Meriter Hospital has introduced the successful running of a virtual dementia tour program to train every nurse in their system. The idea behind this system is to equip them with a better sense of what patients with dementia deal with daily.

Carrie Bennett, a geriatric clinical nurse specialist, and coordinator of the training says: “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.”

The virtual dementia tour utilizes kits each nurse with various items which force them to deal with sensory distraction: 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 sounds from the street. All of these items affect the senses if the participants. At this point, the nurses are taken

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

 A Meriter intensive care unit nurse added: “I felt all of my senses were being stimulated, but also they were taken away at the same time.”

Bennett, who focuses on geriatric care, gained a better understanding from her personal experience of the virtual dementia tour. 

 “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. And it is important that nurses are equipped to deal with patients in a humane way. 

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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