Virtual Dementia Experience
As a Health Science instructor who seeks to prepare high school students for a career in Health Care, I often find challenges in the classroom due to the lack of exposure to health care concepts. One of these concepts is the progression of Dementia, which is pertinent to the career choice that my program offers. Statistics show that Dementia affects over fifty percent of patients in Long-Term Care facilities. Students who are interested in a career working in Long-Term Care often are foreign to the concept of Dementia, how it affects their patients, and how to treat each patient who suffers from Dementia. This problem is prominent among high school students, and is reflected during clinical site visits as students are confused as to what the patient is experiencing and how to treat the patient. For example, a patient suffering from Dementia may displays signs of aggression, confusion and talking about nonrelative ideas. The student becomes confused themselves as they have been taught about Dementia, but experiencing it first-hand is usually difficult and causes the student uncertainty as to how to proceed with care. The problem is that it is difficult to teach students to understand what that patient is experiencing. The Virtual Dementia Experience is a program that allows students to be transformed into a reality similar to what the Dementia patient experiences. This program allows modifications such as hearing impairment, distractive background noise similar to what a patient with Dementia will hear, decreased sensations in the extremities and visual changes associated with the aging process combined with a simulation of what enters the mind of a patient with Dementia. While having most all senses modified students then are asked to perform different tasks. These tasks can include feeding themselves, dressing themselves, hygiene and grooming tasks and other common tasks that one completes on a daily basis. Theoretically, this experience is to make students aware of how coping with Dementia is difficult alone, but nearly impossible to complete daily self-care tasks while suffering from this disease. It is meant to evoke compassion among students and help enable them to provide better holistic care for their patients.