Spotlight on Four Season's Dementia Experience

Dementia is set to be the 21st century's biggest killer. But awareness and understanding remains low and many families are facing it alone. That’s why, during the Week, we want everyone to come together and take action. By uniting, we can raise awareness, offer help & understanding and improve care. You can find more information on the Alzheimer's Society website.

To mark Dementia Awareness Week, Four Seasons Health Care is hosting four guest blogs from our team of dementia experts.

Our first blog comes from Teresa Baldwin, Dementia Project Facilitator, on raising awareness about dementia in care homes:

To support Four Seasons Health Care (FSHC) to raise awareness about dementia within and outside of the organisation we have produced a short face to face learning session which we call Dementia Experience.

The aim of the experience is for participants to understand what it may feel like for a person living with dementia. We do this by creating a virtual experience – participants wear goggles that may be obscured in some way, they also wear headphones with background noise playing and they wear gloves. Once they have these items on we then ask them to complete simple tasks that any one of us may do every day, things like lacing shoes, putting on shirts, laying a table, playing cards or opening a packet of sweets.

This experience is usually done in small groups but we have done sessions for bigger audiences. Once the experience is completed, in usually no more than 10 minutes, we then reflect on the experience and this is the key part of the learning session. A facilitator will lead discussion and explore with the participants how they feel immediately after. This reflection enables the participants to explore their own feelings and it can be an emotional experience. Some participants have had real light bulb moments linking their own behaviour during the experience to people they support that live with dementia.

We encourage participants to think about how they have all behaved during the experience and how this behaviour may be similar to what they see from the people they support. As a facilitator I have seen a range of behaviours from participants – people can become very quiet and withdraw, they focus on their task and stop interacting with others, they can become very confrontational with others if they see others have taken what they need, they can sit down on the floor as they feel safer sitting down, I have seen people hoard items from the experience and become very territorial. What is universal from all the sessions I have seen is the profound effect this session has on people who participate.

This experience has been shared with staff, senior management teams, central office staff teams, visiting professionals, community groups and even television presenters. We have taken the experience out to schools and colleges and encourage anyone and everyone to have a go. This experiential learning is the starting pillar on our Dementia Care Framework. The dementia experience supports our e learning module dementia awareness. All of the homes who complete the Dementia Care Framework have to ensure that every single member of staff completes that first e learning module and the dementia experience session. This includes the catering teams, the domestic teams, the nursing and care staff and the maintenance person. It includes the home manager and the regional supporting teams. We believe that this first step is the foundation to creating a better understanding of what dementia may feel like and furthermore how best to support the person living with dementia.

Date published: 15 September 2017

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