Kitting out to confront dementia

READY: Participants are given sensory-altering glasses and earmuffs to take the tour.
READY: Participants are given sensory-altering glasses and earmuffs to take the tour. Contributed

PUTTING on a shirt or opening a bottle of medication is often difficult for those diagnosed with dementia and new technology is set to enable carers in Warwick to experience these challenges first-hand.

Churches of Christ Care has obtained the rights to the Virtual Dementia Tour for mainland Australia, which alters certain senses to replicate the condition.

Developed based on research from America conducted by PK Beville, the technology will be available for carers and close family members of dementia patients before being made available to the wider community.

Churches of Christ Care director of seniors and supported living Bryan Mason said the mobile tour was the first of its kind in Australia, as it could be operated from different locations.

Participants wear goggles to block peripheral vision, ear pieces to alter sound processing and gloves to hinder motor skills.

Mr Mason said everyday tasks were then completed, such as getting dressed, which gave a sense of the physical challenges as well as the emotional toll of dementia.

"It's quite an unusual experience,” he said.

"You can understand how they might be angry and experience the frustration they may be feeling in doing a basic task.”

Mr Mason said the tour would change the way people think about the condition.

"Most people coming out of it have a much greater understanding and sensitivity towards people with dementia,” he said.

Churches of Christ Care Regency Park Retirement Living manager Chris Newley said the group had been working alongside the Dementia Support Group to assist those with dementia and their families.

He said the tour would help remove stigma.

"This will help people see they're the same person, just having some medical difficulties,” he said.

Mr Mason said the tour would be available in Warwick in a couple of months and costs would be covered for Churches of Christ Care staff and direct family members.

In the new year, other aged care facilities, medical professionals and community groups will have an opportunity to experience the tour for a fee.

Topics:  dementia support regency park virtual reality

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