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A woman in white tshirt wearing white virtual reality goggles with another lady in blue tshirt also wearing a set behind her.

Understanding dementia with virtual reality

Jun 09, 2022

To help get a better understanding of Dementia, a number of CBS staff working in aged care attended a virtual reality training session run by Dementia Australia. Did you know that Dementia is the leading cause of death for women in Australia? It affects approximately half a million Australians currently and numbers are expected to keep rising.

What is dementia?

Dementia Australia describes it as a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not one specific disease. Dementia affects thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Brain function is affected enough to interfere with the person’s normal social or working life.

Interactive VR workshop

The training utilised virtual reality goggles, which allowed participants to experience dementia from the perspective of a diagnosed person.

Benefits of the training:

  • Staff develop insight, empathy and a better understanding the symptoms and impact of dementia.
  • Staff develop skills, confidence and understanding of the needs of people living with dementia.
  • Support plans developed for people living with dementia include practical outcomes and goals that matter to them.

“The dementia workshop was an experience that I will never forget. It took me into a dementia client’s world and made me realise what they are feeling. This training will help me supporting dementia clients and I have practiced a different approach already which has been successful” – Bianca Perkins (CBS support worker)

Skills to support people living with dementia

The training provided excellent insights into communication methods and best practice for talking with people with dementia. The importance of acknowledging their feelings, having a conversation and ensuring they feel heard and reassured was a key learning.

Another interesting insight was the use of colour and contrast in the environment to improve safety. Brightly coloured door handles, toilet seats and high contrast signage all support a person with dementia to navigate their environment safely.

“For a person with dementia their experience of the world can be quite terrifying, as they are faced with so many more obstacles to overcome. For example, I learned that glare on the floor caused by a window can often be interpreted as water by a person with dementia, or a dark rug on the floor can look like a hole. This can make navigating your environment really scary” – Rachael Duncan (Client Services executive)

Next steps

CBS staff are putting these key learnings into practice to improve outcomes for their clients with dementia. They also felt a strong desire to promote greater awareness of this very common condition, to educate and reduce stigma about dementia in the community.

CBS is very grateful to Dementia Australia for running this workshop and looks forward to providing further training and support around Dementia. Visit the user-friendly Dementia Australia website for detailed information, help sheets and resources on dementia.

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