Into D'mentia allows carers to experience in a unique way what it means to have dementia. By means of a simulation in a surprisingly realistic environment they can experience the feelings and emotions of someone who has dementia.
In an everyday kitchen-diner a combination of virtual reality, interactive techniques, physical objects, sound effects and gaming technology creates a lifelike experience. This allows every visitor to experience a story based on real life. By an inner voice that comes out of a speaker vest, the visitor is taken into the life of a person with dementia. All the experiences that are part of the typical clinical picture - both cognitive and psychosocial - are included, such as confusion, anxiety, alienation, fear, aggression and insecurity.
The Into D'mentia Training Programme is structured in four sections as follows:
A short, individual informative interview with an employee of Into D'mentia. Often themselves with personal experience in dementia care. The process he or she is about to experience is explained to the visitor.
The visitor begins the simulated experience by entering their kitchen-diner and experiencing a day in the life of a person with dementia. The experience last approximately 25 minutes. And in every instance an employee of Into D’mentia is always on hand.
Once the simulation is over, the visitors have the opportunity to discuss their experience with a trainer from Into D’mentia. They will be encouraged to explain how they feel about the simulation, what benefits they have gained and what feelings and emotions have been triggered.
4) Group session
Shortly after visiting Into D’mentia, visitors take part in a group session which goes deeper into understanding people with dementia and improving carers relationships with them.
The starting point for Into D’mentia is that to experience something oneself is the most persuasive and therefore the most effective form of learning. It thereby creates more understanding and compassion for people with dementia. Relationships are strengthened and negative feelings and stress are reduced. This ensures that the caring becomes less burdensome and stressful which ultimately leads to better care for sufferers.
In the first instance, a mobile solution has been chosen for the simulation space so that training can be given on location. The simulation space and a room for the introductary interviews have been created in a mobile cabin which can be transported by lorry. Naturally the simulation space can also be created at a fixed location in which case visitors will have to travel to that location.
A large number of people have already visited the simulator and afterwards attended group sessions. Responses have without exception been positive. Visitors confirm that what they have experienced has moved them and sometimes they have become quite emotional. The debriefing that follows the simulation has proved to be very valuable in determining which elements of dementia simulation have been most beneficial. And the group sessions provide effective guidance to visitors on how to adjust their own behaviour in relation to the person or persons with dementia they are caring for. Research shows that after three months visitors continue to experience the benefical influence of their training on their own ability to provide good care.
Much effort has gone into ensuring that the story feels very realistic. Extensive discussions took place beforehand with carers and people with dementia. During the development of the concept we worked closely with scientists and use was made of research conducted into the fields of perception and empathy development. These scientists have also presented Into D’mentia at the Alzheimer Disease International Conference (London, March 2012) and the Alzheimer Europe Conference (Malta, October 2013). At both events it was received very enthusiastically. The chair of the session at the Alzheimer Europe Conference, Professor Martin Ward, even called it the most original intervention that he had seen in a long time.