As a journalist I have covered many stories about dementia sufferers – people with the condition who have gone missing, health providers wanting to raise awareness, but until now I did not know what life was really like for a sufferer.
This week I took part in a Virtual Dementia Tour, which gave me a first-hand experience of what it is like for people with the condition.
The Virtual Dementia Tour patented product was originally designed, and is owned by, dementia specialist Paula Beville, of Second Wind Dreams in America.
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Six months ago it came to to the UK and Training 2 Care, based in Essex are the sole UK licence holders of the product.
This week it came to Elcombe House, based in De Parys Avenue, Bedford, which specialises in caring for people with the condition.
And Training 2 Care invited me down to go through the virtual tour with some of the nurses at the home.
Chris Ryan, owner of St Andrew’s Homes with centres in Bedford, Wilstead and Olney, said: “This is a real eye opener, even for me who has worked with people with dementia for over 20 years.
“There is always more to learn about the condition but this really gives an insight into what dementia sufferers go through. “
Training 2 Care managing director Glenn Knight took me through the tour. He gave me a set of headphones where all I could hear was muffled voices and occasional loud noises, glasses that affected my sight and pimpled pads to put in my shoes, and gloves on my hands. He led me into a room where he gave me a list of tasks. I could not hear what he was telling me so I began to walk round the room aimlessly not sure what was expected of me.
He then asked me to do something useful. I was then asked to fold some towels on the bed, which were mixed with a pile of clothes.
I found this very hard, as I struggled to find them originally and then it was hard to pick them up and fold them.
Combine this with hearing about six different conversations, doors banging and alarms going off in my headphones, it was a real struggle to do anything.
It was hard to walk, hard to hear, hard to see, hard to feel – everything was just hard.
This test lasted only eight minutes, but it showed me just a glimpse of what it must be like for people with dementia.
Glenn explained that people with the condition end up wondering around aimlessly because they simply do not know what they are supposed to do.
They jump at insignificant noises because as their brain deteriorates they cannot block out background noise - they hear everything.
And they follow friends, relatives or carers around because they are looking to follow someone who they think knows what they doing.
When I first entered the room and I just did not know what I was supposed to be doing, I was told my breathing increased, I was becoming hot and anxious and I was paranoid about the bed in the room that had a pile of clothes underneath it.
It gave me huge insight to what sufferers actually go through and how hard it must be for their families who are trying to help them.
>> See our video: www.bedfordtoday.co.uk/video