How “virtual dementia bus” began its journey at the Tess Dementia Cafe in Harlow

Health / Mon 2nd Oct 2023 at 07:37am

THE team at a specialist residential dementia care home in Waltham Abbey have had an ‘eye-opening’ insight into the lives of their residents thanks to a visit from a Virtual Dementia Bus.

The team at Honey Lane Care Home on Margherita Road, which provides bespoke care to people living with dementia in a 38-bed home, were given the chance to physically experience some of the challenges their residents live with every day.

The home’s lifestyle co-ordinator, Lisa Gammalliere, explains how the journey began at the ‘Tess’ Dementia Café’ in Harlow.

“The voluntary run cafe in Harlow is a warm and welcoming place for people living with dementia to come and have a cup of tea while enjoying some entertainment,” she said.

“We thought it would be a lovely idea to bring the Virtual Dementia Bus to the café so the Harlow community could get a deeper understanding of what someone living with dementia is going through.

“It was a big success and everyone who took part was able to step into their world. Our residents and their loved ones also enjoyed spending some time in the cafe.”

The specially adapted bus provides an interactive experience that is medically proven to give a person with a healthy brain an insight into what living with dementia might feel like.

Whilst on the Virtual Dementia Bus, the community, the Honey Lane team and the residents’ families took part in a series of challenges that altered and overloaded their senses. Participants were asked to complete several basic daily activities while wearing dark sunglasses, headphones playing music and multiple-layered gloves.

The experience helped to convey challenges a typical person with dementia faces, giving an insight and understanding into what life is like for someone living with dementia. This training also outlined how difficult and deflating it can be to undertake some simple daily tasks while facing sensory overload.

Members of the team who took part said the experience was “eyeopening”.

“It was an experience I will never forget,” Lisa said: “Taking part in the challenges on the bus filled me with so many emotions, it’s certainly given me a deeper understanding of how someone with dementia may be feeling.

“It will help me to be a better carer and enhance the lives of my residents at Honey Lane.”

Sharon, whose mum is a resident at the home, was grateful for the experience. She said: “It was so interesting to learn about different ways to approach and understand Mum’s reactions.

“I was able to recognise some things that have already become a natural way of communicating – like touching her hand or knee when talking to her.”

Home manager, Angela Sacks, found the experience added to her team’s knowledge and understanding.

“As a specialist dementia home, our team here already have a wealth of skills,” she said, “but this experience means they now have greater empathy because they’ve had a sense of what it feels like to step inside the world of someone who has dementia.

“Here at Honey Lane we treat everyone with care and compassion and all of our residents are unique. Our person-centered care plans are in place to support residents and ensure that their preferences, needs, and values are met.

“The Virtual Dementia Bus was a great opportunity to enhance our understanding so we can carry on being able to support our residents and their families to the very highest standard.”

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