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Virtual Dementia Tour

Giving Caregivers a New Perspective

Geriatric specialists know that quality care begins with family members and professional caregivers who are sensitive, patient and kind.  But how can those who care for the elderly be empathetic when they have never experienced old age in its fragile state?

To examine this issue, a Virtual Dementia Tourwas created by Atlanta-based Second Wind Dreams, a national non-profit organization founded by P.K. Beville, M.S. in 1997 to fulfill dreams for those living in elder care communities and to research ways to improve their quality of life.

Participants’ physical, sensory, and cognitive abilities were temporarily altered with props and circumstances to simulate changes associated with aging.

Participant behaviors observed during the VDT® included repetitive actions, verbal abuse, refusal to follow directions, rummaging and sub-vocalizations.  Confusion caused 35% of the participants to withdraw completely.  Another 22% repeatedly made negative self-statements.

Second Wind Dreams® researchers recognized these behaviors as coping strategies for those suffering from confusion. They believe the responses they witnessed may be normal in those with dementia.   The study allowed observers to more clearly see likely causes for depression and withdrawal in the elderly.

Pre- and post-VDT® examinations assessed participants’ vital signs and explored their attitudes about caring for dementia residents.  Of greatest concern was the post-test response by 55% of participants who said they didn’t feel the elderly receive the care they need.

Ninety-four percent of study participants responded that it is crucial and necessary to undergo sensitivity training like this in order to provide good care to residents with dementia.

Nearly 200,000 individuals representing elder care communities, corporations, caregivers, municipal employees and nonprofit organizations have completed the tour.  The VDT® has been featured in numerous national media.  The Virtual Dementia Tour® is part of a series of sensitivity training with proceeds from the sale of the kits going to the non-profit Second Wind Dreams®.

caregiver with client.

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