How Abbeyfield uses The Virtual Dementia Tour to better empathise with our residents

At Abbeyfield we welcome older people with dementia and Alzheimer’s to live with us in our dementia friendly care homes offering care, support and understanding. Caring for another requires a special kind of person - someone who is empathetic, patient and kind. But how can a person who cares for older people be empathetic when they have never experienced old age in its fragile state?

The Virtual Dementia Tour

The Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT) is medically and scientifically proven to be the closest we can give a person with a healthy brain to experience what dementia might be like. Invented 20 years ago in America by PK Beville, the VDT aims to give people the ability to understand dementia by walking in the shoes of a person with the disease.

At Abbeyfield, we ensure all of our care home staff, as well as staff in our supported housing and offices, have the opportunity to take part in the VDT and use it as part of their training. We have found that this helps us create a positive environment for those with dementia to live in and ensures staff make more informed decisions for and about our residents as we have a closer idea of the challenges they are coping with. 

The tour is interactive allowing participants to have a first-hand experience of dementia. With several tasks to complete whilst being presented with noise, lights, chatter and obstacles the participant is plunged into a world which is unfamiliar and hard to control.

After taking the tour one of our care assistants said, “I now have a greater understanding and empathy for some of the everyday challenges that some of our residents face whilst living with dementia. Having walked in their shoes for a short amount of time has allowed me to communicate and care for our residents on a much more informed level.”

Written by Aaron Ingham, Dementia Projects Officer at Abbeyfield

Aaron Ingham

“I joined The Abbeyfield Society in September 2015 after working in a domiciliary setting where I experienced dementia and care for the first time. One particular encounter with a gentleman living with dementia has always stayed with me and subsequently steered me into wanting to learn as much as I could about the condition and how a truly person-centred approach to care could be adopted when caring for someone with the disease.

"My official job title is ‘Dementia Projects Officer’ which means I project manage a number of small and large projects relating to dementia that will enhance the lives of our residents living with dementia. I am one of a handful of trainers that are qualified in delivering the Virtual Dementia Tour within the organisation and I am also a Dementia Friends Champion."

Next steps

Dementia Friends at Abbeyfield

At Abbeyfield, we want all of our residents living with dementia to live the way they want which is why we offer Dementia Friends information sessions to all.

Helpful organisations for those with dementia

A list of helpful organisations for those living with dementia.

Search for Dementia Friendly Care Homes in your area

Find the right Dementia Friendly Care Home for you or your loved one.